I was up at 05:00 on the morning of my departure. My boat to Quebec City was slated to leave at 07:30, but I knew I wanted to get there early so as to be one of the first in line. I was concerned about how my bicycle would be handled and I was sure I wanted to get a good seat!
Sheryl got up with me in the early, just-after-dawn darkness, to prepare me a nice breakfast while I got everything ready. I had prepared my gear and packed up my bicycle the day before. After a parting photo out front, I was on my way at 06:00
I set off in the cool early morning, taking my usual route to the Old Port: Along the deMaisonneuve Bike Trail to Decarie, over to St. Jacques, down the hill to St. Henri, across St. Henri to the Lachine Canal, and finally east along the Canal.
Removed from this lite version:
New Wave Transportation by NICOLAS VAN PRAET
(Montreal Gazette Article on Hydrofoils: 2003/07/19)
When I reached the dock at the Old Port at 06:45, I was the only one there. The hydrofoil was docked at the quay, but it was quite deserted. The floating dock offered no easy place to park the bike, so I had to carefully lean it up against the chain which served as guardrail near the entrance to the quay. I stood at the entrance and waited impatiently. Finally, I decided to use the waiting time to begin unloading my bike and arranging the gear as best I could for carry on. I had no idea what the loading procedure would be, but I felt sure the bike would have to be as empty as possible. I also felt safer with the unloaded bike laying on its side rather than having the loaded one leaning against the chain, where it seemed ready to drop into the water at any moment.
By 07:00, a couple of other passengers had arrived and had taken their place in line being me. I still had no idea how things would go. As soon as some people arrived at the nearby kiosk, I left the line and went over to inquire about the loading procedure. It was a good thing I did so, for I found that despite my reservation and payment by phone, I would still need the ticket and boarding pass that was awaiting me there in an envelope.
Armed with my documentation, I returned to the line, which now had about twenty people in it. Despite some awkward glances, I resumed my original position at the head of the line. Other cyclists had collected by this time as well, and were also waiting near the head of the line with their bicycles.
At length, I saw another hydrofoil coming in to dock. The one which had been docked there all along was just for show. As soon as the new boat was tied up and most of the crew had left to go over to the kiosk, the remaining boat crew came to get our bicycles. I was glad, for I had worried that I would have to wait outside while boarding was proceeding, in order to deal with the bicycle, and thus lose my chance at a good seat. As it was, the crew member just grabbed up my bike, without formality, and secured it with bungee cords to the top deck. Within five minutes he had stowed all ten or so bicycles, and we all remained standing in line. As the line lengthened to hold a hundred or more people, growing ever more impatient, the crew continued to shuffle back and forth between the kiosk and the boat. I saw some bringing a set of large coffee thermoses. I guessed they did not have any coffee-making capability on board.
At length, all was ready, and one of the young crew came to the head of the line to take tickets. I had to move fast to get a choice seat. I took only the most valuable part of my gear, leaving the rest behind on the dock. As it was, although I was the second one into the boat, I still had to race to get one of the two front row seats.
The hydrofoil had two passenger sections. In the back section, where the side entrance was, were a dozen or so rows, with seats on either side of a centre aisle. A small corridor led around the driver's area to a forward section much smaller than the main cabin. There were only three rows, each one with fewer seats than the one behind. The floor sloped up sharply to the front row, which had only two seats on either side of the aisle. There was nothing in front of these forward seats except for a flat space and the front windows.
I raced up and dumped my things on the right-hand seats. The passengers who had boarded just before me grabbed the other side. I then had to fight my way back through the stream of still-boarding passengers in order to retrieve the rest of my gear, left behind on the quay. I had to make two additional trips, pushing through the crowd, in order to gather everything. It filled the seat next to me, the floor at my feet, and a good part of the open space in front of me. (Thankfully the boat was not full.) Despite the fact that I was taking up two seats, my whole corner was hardly larger than an aircraft washroom.
Once settled, I waited patiently for our departure, which seemed to take a long while. Finally we were off at 07:35. I was excited as we backed away from the dock and swung slowly to leave the protected harbour area. My front seat vantage point provided an absolutely wonderful view! It was well worth all the effort I had expended to make certain I got it.
The first few minutes of the trip mirrored earlier rides I had taken on the Longueuil ferry: We went out of the protected harbour and into the swift and strong St. Mary's current, past the Molson plant, and underneath the Jacques Cartier Bridge. The difference this time was the speed with which we were travelling. By the time we had reached the bridge, the boat was going full throttle and the hull had already left the water. The choppy feeling of the current was replaced by an eerie smoothness, coupled with the jet-engine whine of the engines. As I watched the shoreline, objects seemed to move past as speeds similar to what I would expect when viewing them from a car on the highway.
Very quickly we were past the Longueuil marina, the furthest downriver I had ever traveled by boat. I was seeing all the familiar landmarks, but now from a river vantage point, as I had never seen them before. I saw the upcoming narrows, under which passed the Lafontaine Tunnel. We passed the beginning of the Port of Montreal, located at the foot of St. Jean Baptiste in Pointe-aux- Trembles. I saw the Boucherville Islands from an entirely new angle, and then the Islands were behind us and we came upon the familiar Verchères shoreline.
It was 07:55 when we passed Repentigny, at a reported speed of 60 km/h
As I paused from being transfixed by the scenery, I took a moment to check out more closely the boat which would be my home for the next four hours. I saw that all of the fixed markings were in Russian or Ukrainian! Only the more recent, additional signage was in English and French. I took a walk around and got the view out of the open side door, whence I could see the wake thrown up by the bow planes upon which the hydrofoil was riding. There was an opening to the upper, outside deck atop the stairs at the back of the main cabin, but this was roped off so that passengers could not go there.
We overtook a large freighter and I saw the huge bow wave generated by this behemoth. When we hit waves such as these, the hydrofoil would bounce vigourously.
As we rode along, our young crew made announcements over the PA system, giving us historical vignettes about the St. Lawrence, along with some information on the vessel. I learned that the boats were made in Russia and the model was called the Voskhod II. The Russian crew consisted of driver and the engine-room attendant. These, I would learn, spoke no French and only a smattering of English. Our service crew consisted of two young French-Canadians, a young man and a young girl. The young girl took care of the cabin service. Over the course of my voyage, I would order two coffees at $2 each. I had to abstain from the cookies and other treats they were selling.
We reached the familiar shoreline of Sorel at 08:40, one hour and five minutes into the trip. I caught a quick glimpse up the Richelieu River and saw the Sorel ferry as we passed it by. Then, as we headed out to Lac St. Pierre, the sky began to cloud over.
I had never imagined that the path ships had to follow through Lac St. Pierre was so tortured and convoluted. As we sped along, we turned to and fro along the narrow pathway marked out by buoys and lights. In some cases, we passed by only a few hundred feet rocks that were protruding from the water. I guess the lake is actually quite shallow. At length, off in the distance, I began to see the familiar outline of the bridge at Three Rivers.
We reached Three Rivers at 9:35, where we pulled up and stopped at the Old Waterfront. Since the pier was much higher than the boat, we all had the chance to exit through the back, and out onto the main deck. We were promised half an hour's rest at Three Rivers. Soon a second boat approached, the one heading upriver from Quebec. It tied up alongside out own and passengers exited across the deck of our boat to the dock.
While we were waiting, I saw the Russian boat crews out on the deck taking a smoke. I approached them to try and strike up a conversation, but I discovered I could speak to them in neither French nor English. There French was zero. In English, they could respond only with a few isolated words. I have no idea how the service crew ever communicated with the boat crew.
Looking across the river with my field glasses, I explored the shoreline I had cycled in back 1990, on my way to Quebec City. On the way into Three Rivers, just before passing under the bridge, I had noted the mouth of the Nicolet River, which had figured also in that bike trip.
We were all on our way again at 10:00. First the Montreal boat re-boarded, untied, and departed. Then, it was our turn.
Just below Three Rivers we passed by the Gentilly nuclear plant, but the sky was very dark, making it hard to get a photo. At 10:35 we passed Deschaillons, where I had stayed overnight on the second night of my 1990 ride to Quebec. I looked for and finally found the pier to which I had taken my evening walk back then, but it was not possible to get a photo.
We passed a traditional St. Lawrence cruise vessel, one I've seen before and that comes out of Ogdensburg, New York.
Turning the corner from Deschaillons, the St. Lawrence opens up into a fairly large basin, just west of the Quebec City Bridge. We reached this point at 11:25 and began to encounter big waves, waves such as one would see on the ocean. At hydrofoil speeds, the front of the boat bounces terribly when hitting waves. All of my gear, stowed up front, began to bounce completely off the counter. Suddenly, the boat slowed to normal speed and settled back down into the water. Now we were chugging along at the still respectable speed of 15-20 knots, but it seemed like a snail's pace. The shoreline objects, which had been moving past as if seen from the highway, were now stationary objects.
I began to worry about just how late we would be. The driver tried several times to ramp up the speed, only to have to slow down again because it was too choppy. Only as we neared the bridge and the river narrowed again was he able to resume normal speed. Mercifully, we would end up arriving only half an hour late, at 12:30 instead of the expected 12:00.
Passing under the historic Quebec City Bridge, as well as approaching Cap Diamant from the river, were new and exciting experiences. I had never seen the Citadel before from the vantage point of those it was built to defend against. It made for quite an impressive fortress!
We docked at the Port of Quebec, near the locks leading to the inner harbour. Once my bike was off-loaded, it took me a few minutes to re-pack my gear. I was done at 12:45 and called Sheryl to let her know I had gotten to Quebec safely.
I decided to take a few minutes to explore the locks leading to the inner harbour and to take some pictures. Then I began riding the short distance westward across Lower Town towards the ferry.
By some luck, I just made the 13:00 ferry (I did not know the ferry schedule, and so had no way to time it). Seeing the ferry preparing to leave as I rode up, I still had to ride around and follow the car lanes to get my ticket before boarding. As I rode onto the ferry boat, the attendants closed the gate right behind me. (Thank God for small favours!). I used the time spent crossing to Levis to relax and to take some photos.
When we reached Levis at 13:15, I went straightaway to the old train station where I had boarded the train for Moncton in 1990. So much had changed! The old rail line was now a bike path. Still, many of the exterior trappings of the old train station had been left in place. I spent until 13:30 taking photos.
Then I set out eastward along the bike path. Whereas my eastward trek in 1990 had involved climbing a steep hill to leave the port area, I now had the ease of a gentle rail grade along the shoreline. I only rode as far as the first halte on the trail, where I stopped and had some salami & cheese for lunch. Continuing along afterwards, I followed the bike trail on along the shoreline and around the point. To my left side was the river and to my ride side was a sheer cliff, topped with houses. I sensed as I rode that the rail line was slowly gaining altitude and the cliff was getting lower.
At 13:45 I crossed over the road on which I had ridden in 1990, rue St. Joseph, and came to a rest area and park. After I rested briefly, I noted that the bike trail turned inland and led nearly straight up the hillside and into town. I realized this was not the way I wanted to go, so rode back down the hill a ways, to catch rue St. Joseph.
The ride along the quaint old road was pleasant. I stopped along the way at a small market to get some water and to buy a better map.
Then at 13:55, I came to a detour. A man with a truck was parked in the middle of the road behind a big detour sign. I was about to turn off and ride up the hill towards Route 132 when I heard a car stop and ask how far they could go. Then they were let through. I decided to return and ask, "Can a bike pass?" The man seemed to think I could if I was willing to walk the bike. The obstacle was just shy of the Route 132 intersection. A deep ditch was dug right across the road, but I was able to squeeze past on foot.
When I reached Route 132, I could only barely recognize the desolate 'four corners' I had remembered from my 1990 trip. Just before reaching the corner, I had a last glimpse of the old railroad route, at this point abandoned and grown over, as it passed under the highway. Across the river, I had a great view of Montmorency Falls. It has been this same stupendous view in 1990 which had drawn me to spend the next day cycling over to the Falls.
I headed east along Route 132, now easily climbing up what had seemed like such a big hill back in 1990. A mileage sign showed that I was 184 km from Rivière du Loup.
When I got to the top of the long hill it was 14:20. Located there was the campground where I had spent my last night camping in 1990. This was as far as I had ever cycled east from Quebec along Route 132. After stopping for five minutes to take some photos, I was on my way into new territory.
Route 132 was essentially the high road. Although there were a few ups and downs, I was for the most part high above the river and was treated to frequent panoramic vistas of the water below. Ile d'Orléans would form the other side of the fairly narrow channel for some ways to come.
When I reached the town of Beaumont at 15:00, I decided leave Route 132 in order to follow the old road into the town itself. I was coaxed in this by the designers of the new Route Verte. Out on the highway, there was a new and wide paved shoulder for cyclists, which was very nice. At the point where the Route Verte signs indicated I might want to go through the town, the paved shoulder abruptly vanished.
I rode on into the centre of old Beaumont, which is built along the top of a hundred foot cliff overlooking the river. At one point a small river drops over the precipice, turning an old mill wheel as it does so. I stopped into the tourist information to get some brochures, and I called Sheryl from the centre of town.
I was back onto Route 132 at 15:30 and heading on towards the next town of St. Michel, 8 km further down the road. The Route Verte bicycle path was back. Unfortunately, I also began to encounter a head wind and had to drop down into my lowest gear in front, while keeping the chain in a normal cruising position in back, a technique for cutting into the wind I had learned on my Niagara trip.
The day remained bright and sunny. To my right were endless stretches of farmland, with row upon straight row of crops. Far in the distance could be seen a tree-topped ridge. To my left, also across stretches of green farmland, beyond which the endless blue of the St. Lawrence was spread out below me.
BEAUMONT TO MONTMAGNY
The Bellechasse Region, From the River to the Mountains
The Bellechasse region is known for its farming landscapes and picturesque villages, which are among the most remarkable in Quebec. Its religious, residential and agricultural heritage is plentiful and well-preserved.
From the shores of the St. Lawrence to the first Appalachian Mountains, it is this region's greenery that sets it apart
At the Parc regional du Massif du Sud, an array of activities for all seasons await outdoor enthusiasts. Fertile plains provide an abundance of delicious, flavourful produce.
(Quebec Tourist Guide: 2002)
I reached the town of St. Michel at 15:45. [I wrote at the time: ‘which allowed me to clock my speed at 12km/hr’, but this obviously makes no sense, and I definitely was NOT going 32 km/hr. It is a mystery.]. Once again, I left the highway and rolled into the old town along a side street, to explore a bit. In front of the church was a golden statue of St. Michael, slaying the dragon. I stopped at a market and bought myself some fresh grapes.
At 16:15 I came upon the Domaine Rivière Boyer Park. The tiny watershed of the small River Boyer had been turned into a wildlife refuge and there was a small park, with roadside rest area, at the river's mouth. I stopped and hiked briefly out along the wooden walkways through the marshy forest so as to reach an open view of the river. All about was open marsh, but I was able to sight downriver with my field glasses to the tip of Ile d'Orléans. I was on my way again by 16:20
At 16:30 I passed through the town of St. Vallier. As with all the other towns, I left the main road and went through the town along the old road.
Berthier-sur-mer was my next stop, at 17:15. I passed by a beautiful garden on the way into town, a garden I was sure would impress Sheryl.
Sheryl would, in fact, stop by at this garden, Jardin Mikami, the next day.
I called Sheryl from somewhere out on the road at 18:00. She had been waiting for her friend Joan, in order to go out with her, and Joan had just arrived when I called.
I continued my way along the high road, which continued to be busy, but which gave me a nice paved shoulder. I had many great views of the river.
Berthier-sur-Mer was founded in 1672 when the Bellechasse land concession was granted to Isaac Alexandre Berthier by a district administrator named Talon. This municipality proudly bears the title of "Sailing Capital." Because of its ideal geographic location, visitors can relax and discover an important page the history of the Cote-du-Sud and of Quebec right on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Stroll along the wharf, drop by the "Havre de Berthier" marina or frolic on the beach, while admiring the spectacular vista afforded by the 21 islands of the Isle-aux-Grues archipelago and the Laurentian Mountains. Berthier-sur-Mer is the main point of entry to Grosse-Ile and the Irish Memorial, so hop on board with the crew of "Croisieres Lachance", a cruise line operated by a famous family of navigators, to discover Grosse-Ile's history and the majestic St. Lawrence's thousand and one secrets. Because of its many attractions, over the years Berthier-sur-Mer has become a place where a number of artists find inspiration. Recharge your batteries while visiting the magnificent garden at "Jardin de Mikami" or take part in the Arts and Traditions weekend, an event that pays tribute to the region's heritage. Discover the picturesque architecture of this charming village by carefully following the itinerary given in the "Circuit decouverte" This will undoubtedly make you want to stay in one of its tourist lodgings or have a fine meal in one of its restaurants. With the St. Lawrence as its lifeblood, Berthier-sur-Mer is only more than happy to share it charms. (Quebec Tourist Guide: 2002)
At 18:15 I arrived in Montmagny. I stopped at an Irving station on the town's commercial strip and bought some ice to fill my cooler. From there, I called the town's campground to get directions.
I rode on through town along the main road and across the bridge at the east end of town. There I turned down a side road which took me to the point at the mouth of the river. It was here that the campground was located. They gave me a site in the 'free' (libre, but not gratuit: No fixed campsites) area which was on a bluff overlooking the river. I had a great view, and nearby was a roofed-over wooden belvedere where I could sit down.
I had arrived at 18:50 and was all set up by 19:30. I then set about exploring the small city of Montmagny, looking for a place to eat. I rode all over the town, discovering several parks along the river and several bridges across it. I came upon a casse-croute across the river from a church where they were having an open-air concert connected with the World Youth Day celebration. I was able to enjoy the music as I had a soup and fish & chips dinner to 20:30.
I rode back through the dusk to get to the campground before visibility was reduced to zero. I was not yet ready to retire, however. I locked up my bike and then took a walkabout down by the river's mouth, where I spent quite a long time looking out on the bright lights and lighthouses of the river with my field glasses. I was able to make out some passing ships in the night. I called Sheryl one more time.
I finally did go into the tent at 22:00 and slept very well. My tent door was towards the river and I slept with the flaps open, so that I could look out on the river through the screen. The cool, fresh air helped me to sleep.
Montmagny, pop. 12 051
Passionate and fascinating, Montmagny is a must-see vacation destination. Called the capital of the snow goose, the city plays host to thousands of greater snow geese in the spring and fall. With 350 years of history behind it, Montmagny has been able to preserve several of its ancestral buildings. A showcase of cultural and architectural heritage, Montmagny is a city-museum.
Imagine a museum the size of a city where the corridors linking the exhibit halls are the streets lined with historical and cultural buildinqs. This city-museum offers the Centre des Migrations, the Musee d'art religieux Jacques Simard, the Maison Sir Etienne-Paschal-Tache and the Musee de l'Accordeon... During the summer season, a number of musical shows are given in downtown Montmagny, one of the oldest city centres in Quebec. Montmagny, a city facing the St. Lawrence, offers cruises and tours to Grosse-IIe and Ile-aux-Grues and its archipelago with Croisieres Lachance. The ferry service also offers transportation between Montmagny and IIe-aux-Grues. Various outdoor activities such as golf, cycling and bird watching (available yearlong with Ornitour) are sure to please. Montmagny is also noted for the diversity and quality of its tourist services when it comes to accommodations, restaurants, shops, museums, parks, rest areas and guided tours. In August, the Exposition regionale de Montmagny welcomes the Carrefour mondial de l'accordeon, a major international cultural event. In October, the geese are back in time to celebrate the Festival de l'Oie Blanche and the host of activities and events that go with this waterfowl festival. The tourist information office, located at the Gare fluviale de Montmagny close to the wharf, is open year round... (Quebec Tourist Guide: 2002)
I had set my watch alarm was set for 05:30. When it went off and I looked out through the screen of the open tent door, I could see nothing at all. All was blanketed in thick fog and half light. I reset my watch alarm for 06:30 and fell back asleep. It started to rain during my additional hour's nap and so I had to close the tent flap. As I lay there listening to the patter of rain on the tent, I could sense it intensifying.
When my 06:30 alarm went off, I called Sheryl on my cell. She was already up and was getting ready to leave the house at 07:00.
The rain lulled me into such a state of relaxation that I rolled over and went back to sleep once again, this time until 07:30.
Only then did the urgency of my task force me to get up. Packing up my gear in the rain was not something I looked forward to. Luckily, though, the nearby picnic table had a covering wooden roof. A family, gathered there for breakfast around one end of the table, watched with extreme interest as I packed up my wet gear, doing my best to keep dry what was still dry. I rolled up my sopping wet tent and gave it its regular place within my waterproof covering. This would prove to be a grave mistake.
By 08:30 I was riding on out of the campground along the wet, gravel roads, porting my yellow rain poncho. Upon reaching the main road, I turned right, towards town, so as to stop in at the McDonald' for a 'big breakfast': Eggs, pancakes [without syrup], hash browns, toast, bacon and coffee. I had tested my blood sugar that morning and had come in at 3.8, so I felt permitted to cheat on breakfast.
It was 09:15 before I started heading back out of town. I took a side trip to the overlook below the falls to stop for fifteen minutes, in order to get one of the photo shots I had missed the day before.
By 09:30 I was definitely on my way, riding east out of Montmagny along Route 132. I was still within the range of La Route Verte, and so had a well groomed shoulder alongside the highway on which to ride.
The Lowlands from Montmagny to L'Isle (Adapted from Ecotours)
Between Quebec City and L'Islet-sur-Mer, the Saint Lawrence widens from a width of 1 kilometre to 22 kilometres. The section called the 'Fluvial Estuary', still made up of fresh waster, extends from Quebec City to the eastern tip of the Ile d'Orleans. Beyond that is the section called the 'Upper Estuary'. The first portion of the Upper Estuary, as far downriver as Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, is where the freshwater of the Great Lakes mixes with the saltwater of the Atlantic. This area of brackish water provides a unique habitat for species such as the Atlantic sturgeon, Atlantic tomcod and rainbow smelt.
I reached the next town along the road, Cap St. Ignace, at 10:00. As usual, I left the main road in order to get a better look at the old town. All along the old road were quaint, old houses, but I contented myself with two pictures: One of an old, traditional Quebec stone house called Manoir Gamache, built in 1744, and the other a house gaily painted red and blue and sporting old fashioned tin siding. The modest, but majestic house, beckoned at the end of the road. I stopped in briefly at the town’s tourist information centre to get as much information on Cap St. Ignace as I could. I was on my way at 10:25
Cap-Saint-Ignace, pop. 3 162
This municipality is characterized by an omnipresent and charming countryside. Gently rocked by the rise and fall of the St. Lawrence tides, this old parish dates back over 330 years and is known for its rich architecture and fertile farmland. A foot trail leads the way to Petit-Cap, a small rocky island that inspired the name of the parish and where the first buildings went up. Heritage-theme itineraries bring visitors to various parts of the village where they can discover the social, religious and commercial activities of the community. The church, built in 1891, is an architectural treasure trove and home to a threekeyboard Casavant organ. For nature lovers, the rest area enables bird watchers to observe snow geese in the spring and fall. From early August to early October, the Route des pommes offers 7 km of lovely countryside and enchanting orchards to go apple picking. In early September, the "Fetes de la Saint-Hubert" celebrate the patron saint of hunters. The Centre Art-Terroir, a hub of tourist activities, is a busy showcase for artwork, handicrafts and agri-food products. "Les visites du Cap-Saint-Ignace" propose tours in motorized vehicles in summer and B-12 snowmobiles in winter. Tourist guide services are available on site. (Quebec Tourist Guide: 2002)
Once out along Route 132 again, I noted that the road was running along the top of a ridge, with the river below cut off by a high cliff. I had a great view out over Ile au Grues (Crane Island). It was hazy out over the water and I was unable to see to the far shore. Although it would remain overcast, the rain had thankfully stopped soon after I had left Montmagny.
Ten minutes down the road from Cap St. Ignace, at 10:35, the road had dropped down from the ridge and brought me down along the riverside (seaside?) at a small hamlet called Anse à Gilles. There was a string of old fashioned tourist cabins along the seaside, while farms occupied the low cliff above, to my right. It was there that I encountered the first outcropping of Appalachian Rocks, signs of the mountains yet to come, as the northern end of the great mountain chain loses itself in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
A further ten minutes along the road saw me having to don and then doff my rain gear, as a short bout of rain caught me, but then soon stopped again.
11:10 brought me to the very touristy town of l'Islet-sur-mer (now, following the recent municipal mergers, part of a larger amalgamated town simply called: l'Islet.)
On both our 1994 and 1998 trips through this region, there was an antique store located in a garage, out behind a house. It was significant because on each of the trips, it marked the very last antique store we could manage, before closing time.
L'Islet, pop. 1 806
Musee maritime du Quebec: www.mmq.gc.ca
I Steeped in maritime history, L'Islet-sur-Mer has been rightfully called the homeland of seafarers. Since the 18th Century, it has provided the merchant marine with close to 200 captains and pilots in addition to countless sailors and workers in associated trades. The most famous of them all was Captain Joseph-Elzear Bernier, a navigator and great explorer, who travelled the world's seasuntil he was 83 years old. He also ensured Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. Whether visitors are experts or novices, the Musee maritime du Quebec proposes four exhibits that will bring them back in time, amongst the oceans and trials and tribulations of sailors. Find out what life was like aboard the Ernest Lapointe icebreaker and unravel the mysteries of the Bras d'Or 400, learn the secrets of traditional boat building and experience the joys of the sea at the Hydro-Quebec interpretation park. The hydrofoil and the boatworks are open to visitors until September 3. (Quebec Tourist Guide: 2002)
I was at the centre of town, by the magnificent old church, at 11:20. I took the time to take some photos and to visit the interior of the church. From the waterfront facing the church, I had a great view out over the vast salt marshes, both up and down the Gulf.
Right next door to the church was the Maritime Museum, an attraction I simply could not pass up. I walked around outside the museum, where I could take pictures of the ships for free. I was surprised to find the historic navy hydrofoil Bras d'Or on exhibit. I remembered this ship from when I first arrived in Canada, back when it was a sign of pride for our navy’s cutting-edge, independent research. The Bras d'Or was in service from 1968 until 1972, when it was finally found that the waves of the open ocean were too much for even its giant 'wings'. Having just come off a hydrofoil, I was sensitive to such things, and was amazed at how big these bow-planes were.
They also had on exhibit the Ernest Lapointe, a St. Lawrence icebreaker of long career. To go inside the ships required payment, but I felt no such need. I did visit the museum bookstore, where I bought a book on the history of St. Lawrence navigation.When I called Sheryl at 12:00, I was just finishing up at the museum. She was at exit 278 on Hwy 20, between Montreal and Quebec City, having left at 07:30. She had spent quite some time at the 'antique row' along the highway near Drummondville.
At 12:05, I left l'Islet-sur-mer. Out along the highway east of town, I passed this beautiful garden laid out around the rocky pedestal of a giant roadside cross. (When I am out on the road alone on my bicycle, I never pass a roadside cross without crossing myself: Invoking Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in thanks and plea for protection!).l'Islet had marked the end of the paved shoulder of La Route Verte, from which I had benefited since starting out from Levis. I was now back into the real world of riding just inside the painted white line, right at the edge of the pavement. To keep from being run off the road, I was forced to stake a position at least a foot to the left of the white line, forcing the passing cars and to go out around me or to wait until they had the opportunity to do so. If I rode too close to the edge, trucks would think they could pass me in the face of oncoming traffic, just barely missing me in the process.
I crossed over La Rivière Tortue (Tortoise River) at 12:20 and soon thereafter came upon the falls at La Rivière Trois Saumons (Three Salmon River)
I crossed into the boundary of the ultra-touristy town of St-Jean-Port-Joli. I found a very picturesque halte by the river, where I stopped for lunch from 12:40 to 13:10. It was an open air halte with a parking lot and a few picnic tables. Quite a number of cars were stopped, and tourists came and went. I was an object of interest as I unpacked the tiny cooler from my bike and broke out my lunch of cheese and salami and grapes. I enjoyed relaxing and looking out on the still fog-bound estuary as I ate.
Continuing eastward after my lunch stop, I began to encounter the built-up area of St-Jean-Port-Joli around 13:15. The town is little more than a narrow commercial strip stretched along several miles of Route 132. At 13:35, I passed by another old antique emporium where Sheryl and I had stopped both in 1994 and in 1998. Across the road was the old shack of an antique store which we had visited, in trepidation, in 1994. It was now closed and the building condemned.
Eventually I reached the centre of the St-Jean-Port-Joli agglomeration, where the tourist information centre sported a scale model of the whole resort town, stretched out along the highway.
Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, pop. 3,397
A required stop on any tourist itinerary. Saint-Jean-Port-Joli is a distinctly unique component of Quebec's cultural landscape. Its most illustrious denizens - the Bourgault family sculptors (Medard, Andre, Jean-Julien) and Philippe-Aubert de Gaspe, the seigneur of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, French Canada's first novelist and author of the famous Les Anciens Canadiens - are owed much for the town's acclaim. An authentic wood sculpting mecca, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli will welcome L'international de la sculpture de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli from June 22 to July 1. During the event, you can admire works by artists from Canada, other parts of America and Europe and visit the sculpture park near the marina in the center of town, an evolving exhibit now showing 21 original works from the last three editions of the festival. Philippe Aubert de Gaspe's residence burned to the ground in 1909, but you can still see the bread oven (1764) that survived the fire by looking to your left as you enter Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. Across Route 132, a stairway leads up a promontory, where the view of the river is magnificent. In 1698, Jacques Chouinard and his wife, Louise Jean, were owners of a land grant ceded by Charles-Aubert de Chesnay. It's a village to discover slowly as you wander through the boutiques, workshops, galleries and museums or enjoy a cruise. Each has its own way of showing the special place of honor afforded sculpting, miniature boat building, fabric weaving and other handicrafts. Fascinating finds, both big and small, await those with the patience to seek them out. Here's a hint: take a peak inside the church (1779). Its interior decor is the work of numerous reputed artists, including the Baillarge brothers and the Bourgault. Note the 22-character nativity scene in the vestry, a collective work made of solid basswood by some 17 local sculptors. In Saint-Jean -Port -Joli, even the food and lodgings are like works of art - you'll have no trouble finding fine restaurants and cozy inns. With its summer theater, Saint-Jean -Port-Joli is a popular attraction for play lovers. La Roche a VeilIon, located in a pastoral setting, presents Quebec plays. In August and September, one can also attend the "Chants de marins" songfest. In addition, from August 29 to September 1, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli will celebrate its 325 anniversary. (Quebec Tourist Guide: 2002)
By 13:50, as I was riding on my way out of town, I passed yet another big antique emporium, where Sheryl and I had stopped in times before. This one was in a large barn. Nearby had been the antique store near an old aviation museum (gone even in 1998), where Sheryl had begun her special collection with the purchase from the old timer running the place.
A big, black cloud passed overhead as I road, and it suddenly got very windy. I thought intense rain was imminent, but luckily the cloud passed on and I was soon back out into the sun.
Now east of St-Jean-Port-Joli, I was riding along a wide, flat and mostly green plain, high enough above the river to have a panoramic view. Far off to the right could be seen the purple masses of distant mountains. Out in the midst of this farming wilderness, I passed the sign welcoming me to the next town: St-Roch-des-Aulnaies.
I came to a beautiful roadside garden, with flowers planted in amongst the rocks. Although the farmers’ fields I was passed represented dull and boring monoculture, whenever I would cross a creek or irrigation ditch, I could see the original native plants stretching off into the distance, awash with the bright colours of the wildflowers.
Soon I came to the small town of St. Roch, situated on a point and offering a wide vista of the shoreline ahead. I could begin to see, off in the distance, a whole series of small, isolated rocky hills. These would become a prominent part of the next day's geography. The late afternoon lighting allowed me to take a spectacular photo of the church at the centre of town.
It was at 15:00 that I reached the historic Seigneurie of Des Aulnaies. I knew this rustic location from having seen it quickly in passing during earlier drives, but had never taken the time to stop. As one approaches the site, the road drops down into a narrow valley in order to cross over the river. What caught my attention first, from the bridge, was a small set of rapids joining the main stream from the side. The scene was very picturesque, but the lighting made a photo impossible.
I rode up to the top of the hill and parked my bike near the parking lot, hoping to get some sort of vista that would make a good photo. Alas, it was not possible to get near anything without paying the admission fee. Atop the hill sits the old seigneurial manor house. The fee allows one access to the house, the grounds, and the old, restored mill. All is carefully screened to prevent those outside from seeing anything. Although it was late in the afternoon, the parking lot was full and the whole area was thick with tourists.
I rode back down the hill and stopped in at the restaurant/gift shop. I found there a most interesting book which contained many descriptive vignettes about the route I was taking. I hesitated, as the thin little booklet was quite pricey, but finally decided it was worth it.
Before leaving, I called in to Sheryl. She was in Berthier-sur-mer, at the garden that I had passed earlier. Altogether, I stayed at the Seigneurie for half an hour. It was 15:30 as I set out down the road once more. The road climbed back up out of the small valley and led once again across the plain amidst the farmland.
Not too far past St. Roch, the highway crossed over to the inland side of the Hwy 20 Autoroute and then climbed up to the top of a small ridge. As I followed along the ridge, I had frequent views out over Hwy 20, with its traffic speeding, and out to the river beyond. I passed close by one of the first of the small, rocky hills I had seen earlier.
La Pocatière: Monadnocks and Falcons (Adapted from Ecotours
As one approaches La Pocatière, one comes to a series of hills that seem to rise from the cultivated fields. These isolated hills are called monadnocks and are made of hard quartzite rock that has resisted the forces of erosion that leveled the surrounding land. Rarely more than 80 metres high, they are distributed in more or less parallel lines. and are covered in part by scrubby conifers, mainly spruce and pine, forming a different type of habitat from that found in the lowlands. The peregrine falcon is one species that appreciates this particular habitat, whence it can feed off the abundance of prey in the surrounding lowlands. The falcons were re-introduced into this area by the Canadian Wildlife Service in the 1970s and 1980s. The use of DDT and other pesticides had led to their disappearance from southern Quebec during the 1960s. The program can be deemed successful, for the presence of nesting pairs has now been confirmed.
As I neared La Pocatière, I passed a small B&B set among the farms lining the ridge. While it did not look particularly interesting, it did set my mind thinking about that evening's lodging. At the St-Roch/La Pocatière boundary, I had crossed into the Bas St. Laurent tourist region, so I took out that region's guide and looked into what was available. The nearest campground was 14km further along. Should we camp or should we stay at a B&B? There were a couple more B&B's listed in La Pocatière, and I was sure there would be some motels.
Route 132 comes upon La Pocatière in a rather strange fashion. The road was running just to the south of, and a bit below, the crest of the ridge (The crest cutting off, now, any view of the river or highway below.) Up ahead I could see the ridge rose much higher and at the foot of the small hill were the first buildings and businesses of the upcoming town.
When I reached that point, I saw that the road split in a 'Y'. The left-hand, northerly branch, that of Route 132, cut through the ridge in a stark cutaway and descended sharply to the river valley below. The other angle continued on along the inside of the ridge, and was lined with houses and businesses.
As I was pondering which branch to take, I came upon a vast warehouse of brand new, shiny subway cars. I remembered, then, that Bombardier had a large manufacturing plant at La Pocatière. I stopped to explore and take some photos.
Unsure of where the other road might lead, I decided I had best stay with Route 132, and so rode through the cutaway and raced down the hill towards the river valley. Riding along the base of the ridge, I could not help but notice the castle-like appearance of the huge CEGEP building atop the ridge to my right.
I eventually arrived at a crossroads where there were a number of small shopping centres with the usual roadside businesses: McDonald's and Burger King. I could see ahead that this couple of blocks of roadside suburbia was all that I would find of La Pocatière down in the valley. The sign for the town pointed straight up the hill.
I realized then that I might not have made the right choice earlier. All the energy I had released in racing down the hill would now have to be repaid. If I hoped to find any lodging in the town of La Pocatière, I would first have to reach the town! I started slogging up the steep hill. As I climbed the ridge, I began to pass side streets lined with houses. The hill only got steeper.
Soon I was coming up right next to the massive CEGEP castle so prominently visible from below. In the last couple of blocks I had to give up. The hill was just too steep. I dismounted and pushed my bike up to the top.
As I was walking, I noticed a sign in the window of the CEGEP indicating that they had rooms to let and so I decided this would be worth checking out.
At the top of the hill, I could see how the town was arranged. There was a crossroads. To the right lay the entrance to the CEGEP grounds. To the left, the main street of the older, trendy downtown section of town descended a bit. Directly in front was large, modern church. The road I had climbed the hill on made an 'S' curve, before descending the other side of the ridge. Down below (but not nearly as far down as I had climbed) was the newer section of town, with several large stores amidst giant parking lots. Most of the town of La Pocatière was spread out in the small valley on the south side of the ridge.
I parked my bike by the CEGEP’s residence entrance, which was right on the corner, and followed the signs downstairs to look into lodging. I met a gentleman who was just closing up the office. Yes, they rented rooms for the night. The rate was $29 for two. But they were closing now (16:30) and I would have to come back when the evening security guard re-opened the office at 17:00. There was no way I could coax him into taking care of me before he left. He was off now, and that was that.
The deal seemed too good to be true, and it was the hour when I normally get very anxious about the night's lodging, so it was only with half interest that I took a short ride down the main street to check it out. Although not as steep as the big hill I had just climbed, the main street had a noticeable descent to it, so I did not want to go too far. I rode down the six or seven blocks it took to reach the end of the commercial section, then I turned around and climbed back up the hill.
It was the kind of quaint, trendy street one would expect to find in a college town. I passed several pubs, with raised terraces full of people. One, called the Pub Azimuth, seemed like it would be a good place to eat.
I was back at the college dorm at 16:45 and waited until the young security guard came at 17:00. When he was a bit late, I got even more nervous, fearing the previous official had just given me the brush off. Perhaps no one was coming to open the office?
When someone finally arrived, I took the room sight unseen. I had forgotten my last CEGEP dormitory experience, in Ste. Foy a few years earlier.
There was one long hallway, with quite a number of young people hanging out in their rooms with the doors open. Many of the residents were anglophone students enrolled in the local summer French programme. I would get a kick out of talking to some of them later, for they were convinced I was a native. There seemed to be some permanent residents, including one young kid who barely looked 17 and who lived with his 'wife'.
The rooms were unbelievably tiny, perhaps six feet wide by ten feet deep. The one assigned to me was unbearably hot, and the main window did not open, except for a small ventilator pane. The saving grace was that the corridor was on the main floor, so I could wheel my heavily loaded bike right into the room.
When I complained about the size of the room, I must have touched a nerve in the young security guard, for he gave me three keys instead of the usual two. One was for the front door, one for the room, and one for the worker's kitchenette, to which most residents did not have access. This latter room turned out to be very quiet, much cooler, and had a marvelous view out over the river valley below through giant plate glass windows.
La Pocatiere: A Fiery Meteorite (Adapted from Ecotours)
Looking across to the North Shore from La Pocatiere, one notices a strange configuration to the contours of the land: The even elevation of the Laurentians is interrupted by two dips where rivers flow into the St. Lawrence, one at Baie-Saint-Paul to the west and the other at La Malbaie, 50 kilometres to the east. Seen from the air the river valleys continue inland and almost meet, forming a broad semi-circular valley. The prominent peak of Mont des Eboulements, rising over 750 metres, forms the centre. These contours represent the cross section profile of the northern half of a massive eroded meteorite crater, the Charievoix Crater. The southern half of the crater was removed by the geological processes tlat created the St.Lawrence River.
About 350 million years ago. a fiery 2-kilometre-wide meteorite travelling at 20 kilometres per second slammed into this part of the Canadian Shield. The force melted hundreds of cubic kilometers of rock, threw much of it into the air and created a hole 5 kilometres deep. There is now a mountain in the centre because the walls and floor of the hole were so weakened during impact that they immediately collapsed. The sides dropped down with such energy to form the valley that the centre area was forced upwards as a mountain, much as water behaves when hit by a raindrop. Where water quickly finds its level again, the rock of the crater was frozen in time in this rebound state as the rock quickly cooled.
The impact of this meteorite would have filled the atmosphere with dust for several months, much the same way as with the now buried Chicxulub crater (180 kilometres in diameter), which is believed to have led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. More than two dozen ancient meteorite sites have been found in Canada, the youngest having been formed less than a million years ago.
The hazy weather of earlier had cleared. I had a marvelous view out over the whole St. Lawrence and could see the opposite side quite clearly. Examination with my field glasses showed that I was opposite the big mountain between Baie St. Paul and La Malbaie. (I would later learn that this mountain, as well as the semi-circular valley in which Baie St. Paul and La Malbaie sit, is the remnant of an ancient meteor strike.)
I had left my cell phone on after the 15:00 call, and so Sheryl was able to reach me around 17:30 as I was musing over the view. She was in St-Jean-Port-Joli, about twenty minutes back down the road for her. I gave her directions to the CEGEP and then walked out to meet her at the top of the hill.
Sheryl’s Day: Montreal to La Pocatière: 249 miles on the odometer Sheryl was already up and about when I called home at 06:30, getting ready to leave the house for 07:00. It was 07:30 when she finally got on her way. She headed out for Quebec City along Hwy 20, stopping at the ‘antique row’ fronting the highway near Drummondville, where she stayed until about 11:00 When I called her at 12:00, she was just passing exit 27, just west of Quebec City. As I had instructed, she got off Hwy 20 east of Quebec City and continued along Route 132, following in my footsteps. As she passed through the small towns, she stopped in at various marches aux puces. When I called at 15:00, she was at the Jardin de Mikami in Berther-sur-mer, a fantastic garden overlooking the river. In St-Jean-Port-Joli , She stopped into a place called Sculptures en Jardin, where there was a beautiful garden with statues for sale, New Age music and a view of the water. She had stopped in at the Seigneurie Des Aulnaies when I called her at 17:30.
Soon, I saw her coming up the hill and waved her into the CEGEP’s parking lot. After I let her check out the accommodations, I took Sheryl for a walk down main street and we stopped at the Pub Azimuth, which still looked like a hot spot, for dinner. We got a great seat on the terrace, but service was slow as there was only one old guy serving the whole restaurant. Sheryl ordered ribs and I had a pizza.
After our walkabout, we wandered back up to the college. It was still relatively early, and there was no question of our sitting in the tiny room. The private overlook of the worker's kitchen did not interest Sheryl as a place to spend the evening. We retrieved the car from the parking lot and drove down to the shopping centre at the base of the hill, one block away. There we spent about half an hour shopping (cum sightseeing) in the huge, modern Metro grocery store. I bought some fresh luncheon stuff for my bicycle's mini-cooler: baba-genoush, water, and ice.
We ended our evening out at the Dunkin' Donuts across the street, where Sheryl had her regular, cappuccino. I just had a regular coffee.
We drove back up to the college dorm and returned to our tiny room. We decided to shower together in the unisex shower complex. We encountered several others wrapped only in towels, but they hardly gave us any notice.
It was a rough night sleeping on the plywood base on our 36-inch wide (at best) mattress.
I got up very early the next morning at 05:30. Sheryl was still asleep as I carried all my wet camping gear out to the parking lot and opened it out to dry, pegging it down so the wind would not blow it away.
While waiting for things to dry, I took advantage of the early morning light to photograph the college. I had to hunt around for a good vantage point, where I could get the whole tower in view.
When things were dry, I packed up the car with all the gear I would not have to carry with me any longer. Only then did I return to wake Sheryl.
While she was getting ready, I returned to the 'secret' room with the panoramic view. Unfortunately, an early morning haze covered the lowland and nothing could be seen, neither the opposite shore nor even the river itself.
We drove down the hill to the McDonald's at the Route 132 crossroads, where we had breakfast (The 'Big Breakfast': eggs, pancakes, hash browns, toast, coffee).
Once finished, we drove back up to the college. While I was setting out at 08:30, there was no need for Sheryl to leave that early. Nothing she was interested in would be open at that hour. Now was the time that she could take advantage of the 'secret' room. I left it to her to return all the keys.
I set out at 08:30 and the first order of business was to descend the killer hill. At first, I wanted to race down, fully-loaded and without breaking, but halfway down, feeling lift-off was imminent, I lost my nerve and began applying the brakes lightly. The crossroads was located right at the base of the hill, so stopping at the light was difficult.
I turned my bike eastward and continued along Route 132 from the point I had left the evening before. The morning haze had cleared by that time and I had a great, unobstructed view across the St. Lawrence to the mountains of the far side.
The road left the shadow of the high ridge upon which La Pocatière stands and headed out across the flatland towards another, distant and much lower ridge, one which stood out at the river's edge like an island on the flat sea. Between the two ridges was a vast, flat plain, cut by a meandering river. The Highway 20 Autoroute also cut across the flatland, between me and the river.
La Pocatière to Kamouraska (Adapted from Ecotours)
Along the way from La Pocatière to Kamouraska, the St. Lawrence is almost completely hidden by the dikes or aboiteoux built to prevent salt water from flooding farmland reclaimed from the river. No further reclamation of wetlands for agriculture is being done today, so as to protect what natural habitat remains. This section of the estuary is a transition zone from brackish water to saltwater and the flora in the wetlands changes from the bulrushes (Scirpus) to salt marshes dominated by the Spartina species (cord-grass) and therefore called Spartina salt marshes. Behind the dikes are the rich farmlands of the Kamouraska Lowlands, dotted still with small, erosion-resistant hills called monadnocks. These latter are covered by scrubby conifers, providing a stark contrast to the quilt-like pattern of the farmland below.
I crossed once more over to the river side of Highway 20. The expressway would head inland to climb onto the higher ridges and become the high road. (I have driven the route along Hwy 20 and know that it offers spectacular scenic views of the river and valley through this section northeast of La Pocatière.) Soon I came upon the tiny village of Rivière Ouelle, which straddles a slow and muddy river of the same name. As I crossed the river over an old bridge, I got a close-up view of the old, stone church whose steeple had served as a beacon for me. It was 09:00 when I crossed the river and headed on through town and back out into the flat, green fields.
After not long, Route 132 finally reached the far, stony ridge and took a path perched along its inland side, at a slight elevation over the valley. I was able to look back upon the lowland I had crossed and see the still prominent CEGEP building standing out on the ridge of La Pocatière, far behind.
Whereas before La Pocatière, Route 132 had sported a fair amount of traffic on its own, the road was now nearly empty and deserted. The quality of the roadbed, alas, also had decreased in function with the amount of traffic.
I knew the river to be not far away, just over the rise to my left, but I could sense no sign of it as I looked out over the green fields of the lowland separating me from the higher ridges further inland.
At 09:30, I stopped to catch a photo back towards the still visible college at La Pocatière. At 09:35, I came to the town line of St. Denis. The road continued on, with the wooded rise to my left and the valley farms to my right.
It was not until 09:50 that I came into St. Denis proper. The town consisted of little more than a strip of houses bunched more closely together along the road. Many of these 'village' homes had farms stretching out behind them into the valley below. I came to the church at the centre of town, at which point was a crossroads and a road leading up from across the valley. There were few businesses.
I suppose if I had taken a detour to the left and had followed the cross road up over the rise, it would have brought me to the river. Within town, there was still no sign that the mighty St. Lawrence lay within a few hundred feet.
I did not catch a glimpse of the St. Lawrence again until 10:05. By that time the road had left the town and ridge behind and had dropped off once more onto the lowlands, crossing, as it were, to yet another rocky "island" off in the distance.
And true lowlands they were, as I discovered when I came to a bridge over a small creek. I saw then that a vast system of dikes was holding back the high tides of the river estuary, so that the flat, green fields could flourish. In days gone by, these rocky ridges that looked like islands must have been islands indeed, at least at high tide.
Once conscious of the dikes, I noticed a long one, perhaps ten feet high, which paralleled my route, at the far end of the fields separating me from the river. The dike kept the river from my view, but I know now that it lay just beyond.
I continued pedaling down the narrow, almost deserted road towards the next distant, but ever-approaching ridge. The grain silos of the farm nestled at the nearer end of the ridge served as a beacon.
As I drew up even with the farm, I saw some stone sculptures that the farmer had placed out in the fields. A beaten down track led from the road, through the crops, to the scultures. I stopped to catch a photo.
Off across the bottomlands the road stretched again, towards the next distant stony ridge which appeared as an island amidst the flat green fields. Upon this next ridge was the famous town of Kamouraska, where Sheryl and I had stayed back in 1994. I reached Kamouraska at 10:30
As I followed the highway up onto the ridge, I had a chance to see, end-on, the long dike which had been my ride-hand companion for some time. I was finally able to see the river side of the dike looked like. As it was currently low tide, the outside did not look too different from the protected side. I am sure that all was water-covered at the highest tides, though.
Riding up the hill, I passed the motel and restaurant called “Au Relais”, the restaurant at the edge of town where Sheryl and I had eaten supper during our 1994 overnight stay. In the parking lot of the motel was a straw scarecrow dressed as a cyclist and sitting astride a bike.
I would end up exploring quaint and picturesque town of old Kamouraska for about an hour's time. I first visited the museum that had been made out of the old courthouse. Kamouraska had once been the principal town and county seat of the region. During the railroad era, however, the town’s "island" setting doomed its growth, for heavy railroad tracks could not easily be laid across the marshy bottomlands surrounding Kamouraska. It was at that time bypassed in favour of Fraserville (now Rivière du Loup).
The town of Kamouraska is basically only two streets wide, and perhaps a mile long. Route 132 forms the main street, and runs along the crest of the ridge. The other parallel street runs along the lower, river face of the ridge. Quaint, old houses, many quite tiny, line these streets and the small intersecting ones. Directly behind the yards of those houses on the landward side of the main street begin the fields of lowland farms. Along the main street are a few trendy shops and artists’ galleries, but not nearly the number of stores one would expect from a town of that size.
Riding along the main street, I kept my eyes out for the Bed & Breakfast where Sheryl and I had stayed in 1994, and I finally located it.
I rode down to the waterfront pier, in order to see the town from the river angle. Checking out the far side of the river with my field glasses, I could make out the Manoir Richelieu at roughly 11:00, La Malbaie at 12:00, and distant Tadoussac at 14:00. I recognized Tadoussac by the way the highway climbed straight up the hill from the ferry and by the characteristic rocky point.
It was near high tide at the dock, and the nearby island was separated by a few hundred feet of water. (I had seen this island at other times when it was separated from the town by only the muddy river bottom.). These shifts in tide allow for the local industry of eel-fishing using weirs. The eels swim in at high tide. Then the gates are closed and the time rolls out. Farmers drive out onto the bottom at low tide with their tractors to haul in the fish.
As I was getting ready to finally leave town, I decided I would stop in at a very trendy looking bakery to pick up some bread to have later with my lunch. Once I got inside, though, I found the place was packed. Faced with at least half an hour's wait, I decided to do without.
It was 11:30 when I left Kamouraska. The highway led out through the northern end of town, past the more mundane and less trendy sections of town: Houses with modern architecture and the sort of businesses one would normally expect: Food markets, gas stations, etc. Soon I was clear of Kamouraska and once more out onto the flatland.
In stark contrast to the expanse of low, green fields which surrounded me on all sides, I spied ahead of me a small, wooded oasis. When I stopped to explore it at 11:40, I discovered that it was the old Kamouraska cemetery. Information plaques informed me that the cemetery was on the site of the original town of Kamouraska. For its first hundred years, from 1692 to 1791, the town had been located in the lowlands.
Ten minutes further along the road, at 11:50, I found myself at the turn off for the town of St. Germain, which was easily visible about 1km away, up towards the inland ridge. What stopped me were teams of 10-12 cyclists each, with orange-vested guards in front and bringing up the rear. As I approached the corner, I watched a succession of these teams turn the corner from St. Germain and head down past me, towards Kamouraska.
At the crossroads was a magnificent roadside cross, covered over with a permanent 'abri'. I read that it had originally been built in 1860, restored in 1930, and then restored again in 1982. It was over 140 years old! As usual, I did not leave the presence of this roadside cross with crossing myself and offering a prayer for protection and guidance. In this way, the roadside cross still serves its vocation.
North of the crossroads, the lowland valley along which I was traveling grew ever narrower, as the ever-higher inland ridges moved out to meet the river. At 12:00, when I stopped to check in with Sheryl on the cell phone, the highway was climbing up out of the valley towards a rocky point. (Sheryl had taken my suggestion and had backtracked to St-Jean-Port-Joli, where she was checking out our regular antique stores.)
I had been on the lookout for a nice, shady place to stop for lunch. Signs along the highway continued to announce the upcoming 'Halte Ecologique', so I figured this would be a good place to stop. When I finally reached it, I found that it occupied a rocky ridge similar to the one that housed Kamouraska, although tinier and tree-covered. It formed the head of the point. The ‘halte’ was a private affair: At the same time picnic ground, campground, and day-resort. Although I did not climb over the ridge, I expect there was some sort of beach on the far side.
I paid my $1.50 for the privilege of using a shady picnic table (and the washrooms) and spent from 12:30 to 13:00 enjoying a lunch of cheese, salami, and grapes. I was on my way at 13:00
From the point, the road dropped back down into the lowlands. The next town I came to was St. André‚, a small town stretched out along the river's edge, backed with a narrow shelf of green fields and then the inland, tree-lined ridges. I saw more of the dikes which had reclaimed the land from the river, although these were smaller than before. I tried to catch a photo of the massive complexes of eel-nets strung out in the river, but no good opportunity presented itself.
It was 13:20 when I had gotten to St. André. As I left the town, I noticed that a headwind was developing. The road was climbing up towards the next point, as the inland ridges came out once more to cut off the tiny, lowland shelf.
The Rivière-du-Loup Shore (Adapted from Ecotours)
Leaving the zone of the lowlands and monadnocks zone, the highway encounters the rocky ridges and cliffs of the highlands, as they approach the St. Lawrence. What houses there are are huddled along the narrow shoreline. The climate becomes more maritime because of the sea breezes. Not readily apparent from the road, peatlands abound in this area, their presence usually indicated by low-growing, scrubby black spruce and scattered tamarack.
As I crossed over the point, I came to another roadside cross. This one was built right in the middle of what had once been the old road. The old, narrow pavement was still clearly visible.
Coming out on the far side of the point, I was treated to the vast vista of the ever-widening St. Lawrence Estuary. In the foreground were many more of the small, rocky islands for which this region is known. Off in the distance, I could see the steeple and buildings of a distance town, nestled along a low shoreline that was backed immediately by a cliff and a high ridge.
Les Pelerins Islands (Adapted from Ecotours)
As the resistant rocky ridges of the northern end of the ancient Appalachians reach the shores of the St. Lawrence river, they form distinctive islands such as Les Iles Pelerins (Pilgrim Islands), off Saint-André. The play of warm and cold air currents form images which alter the islands' profiles so that they resemble hooded pilgrims.
What I had seen was the town of Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage, which I reached at 14:20. At the town entrance, I faced a choice. Route 132 headed up the hill, to pass along the top of the ridge. The lower street began with a roadside and waterside park. It then ran along the base of the cliff, with rocky beach and tidal flat to the river side and a single line of beachfront houses backed by a 150 foot cliff on the other side. Occasionally the view of the beach would be interrupted by isolated houses sitting out on the rocks. The narrow town stretched quite a long way along the water's edge. As I neared the centre of town, the river side also began to fill up with houses. All of the houses were quite nice, and situated within nicely groomed and treed lots.
When I got to the town centre at 15:00, I got myself a mint-chip iced cream cone and rode down the hill to the end of the town dock to relax and enjoy it. There was a great view up and down the beach and could make out distant Rivière du Loup. I called in to Sheryl, who was still enjoying the antique stores of St-Jean-Port-Joli.
I learned that Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage, now a resort town and upper-income bedroom community for Rivière-du-loup, had once been an important link in the overland route to New Brunswick. The importance of the portage, which began with a stiff climb up the ridge right where I was standing, ended only with the construction of the railway.
The Grand Portage (Adapted from Ecotours)
Before the days of the railroad, travellers to and from the Maritimes had to walk the Sentier du Grand Portage, a trail leading from Notre-Dame-du-Portage to Lake Temiscouata, whose name means "deep lake". The Amerindians first pioneered the 60-kilometre portage, then it was adopted by the French. In 1750 the British reconstructed and widened the Grand Portage route to three metres and it became an important link for the movement of troops during border conflicts with the Americans. Later is was part of the post road linking Quebec City and Halifax. When the railway and highway were eventually constructed, they followed the same corridor. Now that the railway is gone, one can still experience the original Grand Portage trail by following Le Petit Témis bicycle trail.
I ended my relaxation and continued on down the road at 15:20. I had grown quite apprehensive about the night’s lodging after I had found out from a passer-by at the pier that Rivière-du-loup was to be the host that weekend to the Jeux de la francophonie.
The tiny beachfront main street of Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage finally rejoined Route 132 after passing inland of a vast, marshy cove. The quiet two-laned road that had been Route 132 before its bypassing the town had grown once again into a busy, major highway. As I climbed up the final, remaining ridge, I began to see the high rises of Rivière-du-loup, which was no small town.
I did not yet understand the geography of the city, but was armed with a decent map. I could see from the top of the ridge, where Route 132 crossed over the Hwy 20 freeway and thence was instantly transformed into a major, urban boulevard leading in through the valley amongst the suburban strip malls. A tiny street called Rue Fraser cut off to the left and ran more or less parallel to the main boulevard, but along the top of a long ridge. I chose Rue Fraser
Riding around, across, and through the complex freeway interchange, I was finally able escape and follow Rue Fraser up to the top of the ridge. I came upon a series of vast motel complexes, the first of which was 'Motel au Fleuve d'Argent'. It offered a magnificent view out over the river, so when I stopped in and discovered they still had a vacancy, I did not hesitate. It was pricey at $80, but I figured the cost (and comfort) would average well with the night before.
By the time I got checked in and checked out the room, it was already 16:00. I called Sheryl, who was still back at the Seignurie des Aulnaies. I told her I had a room, gave her directions, and told her to call me when she got as far as St. André‚. I figured that, from anywhere in town, I could get back to the motel in the time it would take her to reach Rivière-du-loup from that point.
Once I had spoken with Sheryl, I set out on an exploration of the town. I dropped down to the main street at the foot of the ridge, whose name was now 'hotel de ville'. I stopped in at the Zeller's to buy some more film, noticing at the same time the Cage-aux-sports restaurant which was nearby.
I rode in along the wide cement boulevard of hôtel de ville, down the centre of the wide valley bounded on both sides by high ridges topped with buildings, until I got to the tourist information centre, which was situated in a large, old brick mansion. I stopped in to get a town map and to inquire about the start of the Petit Témis Bicycle Trail, which would be the next leg of my trip.
Rivière-du-Loup Rivière-du-Loup, formerly known as Fraserville, is a city built first on the fur and fish trade and then on the lumber trade. The city may derive its name name from the seals (loup-marins) that gathered in large numbers at the mouth of the river. Another possible source of the name is the French ship, Le Loup, which was forced to winter at the mouth of the river in 1660. Tradition, however, links the name to Champlain's encounter with the local Algonquian tribe called the Mahicans, or "wolves". A spectacular attraction is the Riviere-du-Loup Falls, which are 33 metres high. There is a lookout where one can get a view of the whole town and of the river. The dam and powerhouse at the Falls, now restored and in active operation, contributed greatly to the industrial growth of Rivière-du-Loup
With cheerful explanation and a town map, I would leave with a much better understanding of the layout of the city. The Highway 20 freeway that I had ridden over cuts down to run along the river north of town. It was so well hidden by the cliff that I could not even see it when looking out over the river from my motel. A branch off the freeway heads south, around the town, towards New Brunswick. Rue Fraser runs along the crest of a long, narrow ridge. Parallel, but in the valley to the south, runs 'hotel de ville'. A large part of town sits atop the much higher ridge on the inland of the valley. The high rises I could see at the top were part of the University. Hôtel de Ville and Fraser would both come to an end at Lafontaine, a major boulevard that curves southward into the main part of town. Unfortunately, my guide could only give me the roughest indication of where the Petit Témis trail began.
I continued my ride in along Hôtel de Ville. The suburban strip malls had ended at the tourist information corner and the street beyond became narrower as it entered more developed parts of the town. The businesses seemed older and more established, and there began to be apartment buildings and houses. I turned right at Lafontaine, which turned out to be quite a trendy shopping street. Lafontaine had a fairly steep climb to it, but I slogged on anyway. Along the way, I stopped into a 'designer' bakery (boulangerie artisanale) and bought some bread.
Although still short of the top, I stopped my climb when I came to a sign indicating Chutes (Falls) to the left. I immediately abandoned my exploration of Lafontaine and downtown to descend rather sharply the two or three streets to the edge of the gorge. From there a road dropped abruptly down to the base, into a narrow canyon below the old power dam. At the foot of the falls and dam was a tiny and nicely groomed park. The old dam had been restored privately and was now an active part of the hydro network.
Sheryl called me at 17:00, while I was still down in the hole. (I was lucky I got the call!). She was on her way, and had just passed the town of St. André. I walked my bike back up the ultra steep roadway to the crest. Before heading back, I took a moment to walk out onto the pasarelle to get a photo of the falls and gorge from the higher vantage point.
I remounted my bicycle for the hard climb back up to the street, one over from Lafontaine, which would take me back down the hill. When the downtown, one way section was done, the two streets merged and I was back onto Lafontaine. I followed this avenue this all the way back down to Route 132, stopping a number of times for some quick photos. I passed many interesting sights, such as the fountain in the city park.
I did not return on Hôtel de Ville, as I had come, but continued on down to meet Fraser. At the intersection of Fraser, I had a glimpse out over the old riverside Rivière-du-loup which I knew from earlier drives. As it cuts around the city, Hwy 20 + Route 132 dissolve into a major boulevard, which makes an arc around a vast cove, bounded on the far side by the peninsula of Cacaouna. My vantage point at the top of the ridge was from a hundred feet above all this.
I rode back west along Fraser, which clearly had not too long ago been the main highway. All along its route, it was lined with motels. I passed a breakfast restaurant which looked quite interesting.
As it was, I got to the motel a bit before Sheryl, so I had a chance to sit out on the terrace and enjoy the late afternoon view of the river. I watched the ferry heading out to St. Simeon, on the north shore.
Sheryl found me thus, at 18:00. She was pleased with the accommodations, their being such an improvement over those of the night before!
Sheryl’s Day: La Pocatière to Rivière du Loup: 111 miles on the odometer Sheryl spent the early morning in the private sun room overlooking the River. As the opening hours of the stores approached, she checked out of the room and gave in the key. She then back-tracked, as I had suggested, to the antique store, marchés aux puces and permanent garage sales along Route 132 in the town of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, including some of our ‘regular’ stops. She checked out the Fol Galerie + Jardin Fou (Daniel Hamelin). She was in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli when I called her at 12:00 and at 15:00. Sometime during the afternoon, she set out on a wild search for an herbalist, off along the inner rangs of the countryside. She never did find the place she was directed to, and gave up when the roads turned to gravel. By 16:00, when I called, she was back at Seigneurie Des Aulnaies, where she checked out the bakeshop and café. She then stopped in at La Ferme L'Emu d'Or, where there was a boutique selling products made from the emu:
Following the brief look around the room, we set out by car and I took Sheryl on a drive along pretty much the same route I had explored before, and ending at the falls. I then asked her to indulge me in trying to find the beginning of the bike trail. We climbed on up the rest of Lafontaine, to the top, and then took a major street across the top of the higher, inland ridge, until we came out at the PetroCan station at the Route 185 freeway interchange (The road to New Brunswick). We were at the very top of the ridge, and out behind town. Southward, the land dropped down into yet another transverse valley, closed off by another ridge off in the distance. We drove around and around several times, but I had no luck in finding the trail head. (We were actually right on top of it: It was behind the PetroCan station. It was so poorly marked that we could not see it driving around in a car.)
Rather than return in a vast 'U' to our starting point, we cut across town as best we could. Many of the through streets around the university were set to be closed for the Jeux, but we got across just under the wire. (The flashing lights of municipal crews dropping traffic cones were all around us!)
I found the way back to the Cage-aux-sports I had seen earlier and we had a supper of an onion block appetizer, followed by steaks.
It was 21:00 when we retired back to the room, made coffee with the in-room coffee-maker, and relaxed. I stepped out onto the terrace for a while to look out on the river at night. Fog covered much. Even earlier, as I had been watching the ferry, I had seen it vanish into a fog bank at mid-river.
I wrote in my journal before finally retiring at 22:00
I was up at 05:30 and had all my gear packed and ready to go by 07:00. Outside was thick with fog, a fog so heavy we could hardly see across the street. We drove back up Fraser through the early morning fog to the breakfast place I had seen the night before, Les Gentilleries. This was a cutesy-trendy sort of restaurant, modern, kind of pricey and quite busy. The name was based on the way names are given to people according to where they live, such as Lavalois for residents of Laval. All the names of the dishes were thus named for weird, out-of-the-ordinary such appellations. The food was good and abundant, along with lots of fruit on the plate. I had an omelet of eggs, cheese, and meats.
We were back at the room by 08:00 and Sheryl caught me in a parting photo before I set into the still thick fog. The fog was slowly lifting, though, and the day would end up turning quite sunny. Still, it was cool enough for my windbreaker at first.
I rode back in along Hôtel de Ville and climbed Lafontaine, this time passing the Chutes sign and reaching the top. Along the way, I stopped at a banking machine and topped up my cash. At the same time, having climbed out of the fog and feeling the hot morning sun beating down on me, I decided it was time to doff the windbreaker. Once at the top, I found myself negotiating the quite complex freeway-like interchange that Lafontaine entered. A main road heads across the river, next to the railway trestle. Another road, Fraserville, cuts to the right, to climb straight up the remaining hillside. Lafontaine continues on past the train station, where it dissolves into an industrial section of town. I had somehow gotten through it correctly the night before, by car, without fully understanding it. By accident almost, I had taken the right road. Such was not to be the case this morning.
Before tackling the interchange, my eye caught sight of the nearby park offering access to the top of the dam. To reach the park from where I was, I had to dismount and walk my bike along the pedestrian crossings. Once there, I left my bike (with some trepidation) and hiked out onto and across the top of the dam, where there were many opportunities for great early-morning photos of the river and gorge below.
Threading my way back up to city hall at the top of the hill, and the complex intersection, I chose to follow Lafontaine up past the train station, whence I proceeded to get quite lost. My theory had been that the trail I was seeking must lie at the end of the railroad tracks, which was true, but not as directly as I had thought. I did not yet have my Petit Témis trail map, which would show quite clearly that it was Fraserville that provided the access to the trailhead and not Lafontaine! Behind the train station, I coasted several blocks down the steep incline of Lafontaine as it dropped off the far side of the ridge. I thought I was doing well until I reached the end of the road at some huge factory gates. I then had to restore all the potential energy I had spent, slogging back up the steep hill until I finally reached Fraserville.
Only then did I carefully consult the town map I had been given, and saw that I had to ride out along Fraserville. Landmarks from the previous night's drive quickly became apparent. I came out once again at the freeway interchange with Hwy 185 and found my way to the PetroCan. I still saw nothing, so I want into the gas station and asked the attendant where I could find the trailhead. 'Oh, it's right around behind the station', he said.
Sure enough, well hidden behind the gas station was the trailhead: A parking lot and a small park with picnic tables. Nothing from the road indicated its presence! I was beyond disbelief! I found a small information kiosk, where I was able to pay my $10 voluntary fee and get a trail map.
It was 09:00 when I set out on the Petit Témis Trail, south from Rivière-du-loup. The first trail sign informed me I was 125km from Edmundston, New Brunswick and 63km from my destination of the day, which was the town of Cabano. (Not leaving lodging to chance, I had phoned ahead and made reservations, sight unseen, at a B&B in Cabano, a town we had stopped at on our way to the Magdalene Islands in 1998.)
Sharply descending the hill from the PetroCan station, the trail started out alongside the Hwy 185 freeway to New Brunswick. The trail surface was of small gravel and was pretty good. Still, I was not comfortable giving my bike free rein on the 16% downgrade, and so tempered my progress with liberal applications of the brakes. Only once I was at the base of the hill and out onto the flat of the valley below, was I able to fully relax and savour the thrill of riding, once again, along a protected bicycle trail. Paralleling the fast moving cars of the freeway added to this feeling of joy.
At 09:25, the Trail met Temiscuoata Road, coming up from the hill-top intersection back in town, where the road to Edmundston had headed off across the river. The trail left the freeway and followed Temiscuoata Road a short ways back towards town , until it encountered the train tracks running south from Rivière-du-loup. (My strategy of following Lafontaine along the railway had not been inherently wrong; it's just that a factory had stood in the way.)
The trail continued south alongside the embankment of the railway line. There was one one final industrial park, in which the railway spur finally came to an end. Immediately past that last factory, the Trail climbed up on the embankment to take the place of the former rail line.
The south shore of the St. Lawrence around Rivière-du-loup consists of a series of ridges parallel to the river. Between each ridge lies a deep valley. Over time these valleys have been filled up and flattened out by peat bogs, providing a major industry for the area. I rode past huge fields where deep blocks of peat were being cut. At that last factory on the railway, I had noticed huge stacks of the same yellow peat-moss bags that we buy at the hardware store for our garden.
At 09:45, as I crossed Rang #1 of the town of Ste. Modeste, the Trail was beginning a slow climb out of the last valley. It would ascend the steep ridge in a series of back and forth switchbacks. The trail was lined with trees and very seldom could I get a vista over the valley. At one point, though, I was able to look back on the smokestacks of the factories at Rivière-du-loup, now far below and well to the north.
At 10:00 and kilometer 121 (from the New Brunswick Border), I was taking a break at a belvedere overlooking Lac Modeste. I shared the break with three women from Montreal who were also cycling the trail and with whom I chatted briefly. Besides looking at the lake, it was entertaining to watch the chipmunks which were all around. As I had climbed from the valley, I had left the farmers' fields behind and had climbed into the deep woods. Already I was at an altitude of nearly 500 feet.
At 10:20 I rode through the town of Ste. Modeste itself, and past the old gare. By then I had reached 650 feet. This section of the Trail would plateau at 850 feet, a height at which it would then remain for some distance.
At 11:00 and kilometer 114, I was at Étang des castors (Beaver Pond) and stopped to enjoy a small, rushing brook. Nearby, I caught sight of one of the many beaver dams I would see along the route. I noted, with interest, that the river was still flowing contrary to my direction. I knew that once I came to water flowing in the same direction as I was riding, that I would be over the hump and beginning my downhill ride.
At 12:00 and kilometer 104, I was stopped at the belvedere on Rivière St. Francois. This halte along the trail was at the mid point of a tall embankment which had once carried the old railroad across the marshy valley of this river. I took a pause for a snack of trail mix and tried to reach Sheryl on the cell phone, but there was no service. It was very quiet and so I could tell we were far from the highway at that point. When I would try her again at 12:30, I would reach her at another of our antique store
After having ridden quite some distance along the flat, I noticed the trail beginning to climb once again. I also noticed that now the Trail was much closer to the highway (for I could hear it). I surmise that both highway and Trail (the old rail line) must have been going through the only pass available. Before actually reaching the highway, I came across a section where the old and deserted (not too long ago) highway stretched off in both directions, in as pristine a condition as ever.
Soon thereafter came the section of the Trail where it and the highway ran together for a long distance. Eventually the Trail was in the pass above and overlooking the highway. Those on the Trail could see the cars, but they could not see us! While along the highway, I decided to try Sheryl again.
At 13:00 and kilometer 97, I stopped for lunch at the halte at Belvedere de Coutourier. In the previous hour, I had only gone 7km, an indication of the steep rate of climb. I would soon be near the summit of 1300 feet. I had a quick lunch of hummus, bread, and grapes.
Climb, climb, climb. It seemed that's all the Trail was doing! Soon, though, there were a few rock cutaways, an clear indication that I was nearing the top. The crest was not to be a dramatic one, however: All of a sudden,. I came out of the forest and back into farmer's fields and the steep grade became shallow. Big, black, biting Flies became a problem an instant problem.
The summit, somewhere before Ste. Honoré Station, was,thus, an anticlimax. The top of the ridge was only gently rounded. I became less and less conscious of climbing, then it seemed as if I was going on the flat, and then I slowly became conscious of a gentle drop.
At 14:00 and kilometer 89 from New Brunswick, I reached Ste. Honoré Station, having gone only 8 km during the previous hour of climbing. Where once had clearly, by the name, been a train station, there was now simply a road crossing more than a mile from the town, whose church steeple I could see down the road.
At the time that I crossed the road, I had not yet realized that I was already past the crest and headed down. The summit had not been marked in any way. Soon, though, the Trail entered a canyon narrow canyon.. I abruptly left the farmland and re-entered the deep forest. What followed was a great downhill run. Since the roadbed was good, I could just let go, and it was a thrill to be able to coast along long sections.At 14:20 and kilometer 84, I stopped at a halte by the waterfall on Rivière Bleue. Had I not known from the speed of my descent, the fact that the brook was now heading in the same direction as I confirmed that I was definitely over the pass.
Amidst my rapid descent, I came upon woodland cottage where the grounds were groomed with utmost care and there was a pond with a fountain. All seemed to serve no purpose except for the entertainment of the passing cyclists.
At 15:00 I was at kilometer 76 and still descending rapidly. I had gone 13 km in the previous hour. The time had come to check in with Sheryl and I found myself out in a vast open and slanting field under the shadow of a tall hill with a radio tower on top. I had just crossed over to the other side of Route 185 in a tunnel. Despite the close tower, cell phone reception was terrible. Sheryl was still back in town looking for a used bookstore someone had told her about.
At 15:20, I reached the town of St-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! I stopped in at the tourist information centre, which must have been at the location of the old gare. This was deep in the valley and far below the town, which I could see spread out over the hill above. I saw from the town map that there was a fine lookout over Lac Temiscouata, but to get to it I would have had to climb all the way up the hill, only to come right back down again. I decided to give it a pass.
From the clearing and crossroad near the gare, the Trail continued its rapid descent towards Cabano, now 8.5 kilometers away. Cabano would be the first town on the lake. Although there continued to be stretches of forest along the Trail, it was clear I was no longer out in the wilderness. Evidence of cottages and cottage roads surrounded me everywhere. At one point, the Trail passed through the middle of a golf course, and cyclists had to stop at a traffic light set up on the fairway. Only when the light was green was there no danger of getting hit by golf balls.
I reached Cabano at 16:00. At first,.it looked different from the way I remembered it, mostly because I was not entering it at the same location as I had back in 1998. At the gare, which was now refurbished as a B & B, I left the Trail and climbed one block up the road to a major crossing on Rue Commerciale. (Had I continued on the Trail another few blocks, I would have come to the spot I would later recognize from 1998.)
The B & B which was my destination was right at that very corner, but I did not yet realize it. I was all turned around and can no longer be sure where I thought I was. I crossed Commerciale and continued to climb up to the top of the hill, and then to come down the other side. I had an eye on the addresses, comparing them with the one I was looking for as I rode along. The target number came and went, and still there was no sign of the B & B. At the very foot of the hill, on the far side, I did finally encounter a B & B. It seemed all wrong, however, compared with what I had expected. Reluctantly, I dug out my map and had a look. I felt foolish once I figured out where I was and where the B & B had been. Rather than climb all the way back up the hill, I found that Commercial made a semi-circle all around the town. When I reached the far side of Commercial, I took the street to ride back around.
I instantly recognized, from my earlier visit, the commercial section of town, overlooking the lake. A bit further along was the Quai des Brumes terrace cafe, where Sheryl and I had eaten lunch in 1998 while overlooking the cyclists along the Trail. A few blocks more up the hill and I had returned to the same intersection where I had started out. There, on the SE corner, was the B & B I had been looking for.
I stopped to check in. Upstairs there was one big bedroom at the right of the stairs and two smaller ones on the left. The bath was at the top of the stairs, but the shower was downstairs. The place was run by a Mme. Levesque, who had come to Cabano from Montreal only a year earlier, seeking a retirement retreat.
It was 16:20 when I checked in. With the formalities taken care of, I rode back down the hill to the terrace at Quai des Brumes and parked myself to wait for Sheryl. In the interim, I had a couple of beers and some fries, before switching to white wine. I had called Sheryl as soon as I had sat down. She was still back in Rivière-du-loup, at the used bookstore. I told her to call when she got to Cabano, which I figured would be an hour's drive from when the stores closed. While waiting for her, I took to writing in my trip journal.
Sheryl called at 18:10. She had just gotten off at the Cabano exit and was just up the street from me. After fifteen minutes went by, I called her back. Where was she? I had figured she had gotten lost, though the town was not that big. She was still just up the street, having stopped to check out an antique store. As it turned out, she had bought me a gift. When she got to the bar, we stayed for a while and had coffee together before retiring to our B & B.
Sheryl’s Day: Rivière du Loup to Cabano: 58 miles on the odometer (418-360)
Sheryl got started by finding and visiting the same Tourist Information Bureau in Riviere du Loup that I had found the day before. They turned her on to all the locations about town where there were antique stores, used book stores and natural product stores. She started by visiting the big antique barn in Cacouna, just east of town. It was the same giant antique store that we had earlier visited in 1994 and 1998. She was still there when I called in at 12:30. Before returning to town, she also visited a shoe store in Cacouna.
Upon her arrival back in Riviere du Loup, Sheryl stopped for some pizza. She then found a natural soap place (saponaria), various marchés aux puces, a permanent garage sale, and a used book and CD store. She was at the used bookstore at 15:00 when I called in, and still at 16:20 when I called to give her directions to Cabano. She would have left at about 17:00 to get to Cabano for 18:00. On the way to find me, she stopped in at an antique store on Rue Commerciale in Cabano
Sheryl was all eyes as I brought her into the B & B. What kind of place had I gotten her into? I negotiated with the innkeeper to bring my bike into the shed in the basement (which was really at ground level, once having been the garage underneath the 2nd storey main entrance.) While I was taking a shower, Sheryl talked up the Mme. Levesque and probed her knowledge of what was going on in the region in terms of herbs and herbal medicine. The lady told Sheryl about a place that she should visit, not too far away, but well off the main road. We asked Mme Levesque to suggest a good place to eat and she directed us to Pub du Lac, on a small road down along the Lakeshore. We drove up to the commercial section of town for a quick walkabout, and visit to the depanneur where I replenished our supply of ice, wine and water.
We eventually found our way down to Pub du Lac and had a nice supper out on the terrace overlooking the lake. While the food was good, I had a pizza but I cannot recall what Sheryl had, the waiter was rather young and not too attentive. We had lots of time to sit and talk as everything from food to coffee to final bill was quite slow in coming.
After supper, we returned to our room at the B & B, where we sat up late reading.
We were up at 06:00 and ready to leave the room by 06:45. I greeted Mme. Levesque in the kitchen, and then descended the back stairs into the gloom of the basement, where I packed up my bicycle. It was 07:30 when we sat down at Mme Levesque's table for a scrumptious breakfast of quiche, cheese, and toast. As we were the only guests, Mme Levesque sat down with us and we all talked. Following up on Sheryl’s interested in herbology, Mme. Levesque suggested a place off-route that she could explore. I set off on my way at 08:00, leaving Sheryl to continue talking with Mme. Levesque. Sheryl gave me a big send-off, along with a photo-op in front of the B&B.
I began my day's ride by backtracking a short bit. I re-crossed the Bike Trail and took the main road along the lakeshore to the north of Cabano.. The goal of my detour was visit to Ft. Ignall, an early fort along the portage trail and a fur trading centre. I rode the mile or so along the quiet residential lakeshore street, the more modern suburban side of Cabano, until I came to the fort itself. The fort was a reconstruction of the original, and was nestled in amongst the houses. The grounds did not open until 09:00, so I had no trouble nosing around and taking photos without paying the entrance fee. The grounds keepers who were around and the re-enactors who were arriving in costume and getting ready for the opening took little notice of me.
Cabano: Fort Ingall (Adapted from Ecotours)
During the 1830s, the great forests of the Temiscouata region were the subject of a border dispute between the Britain and the United States. The British decided to establish a number of military posts along the Grand-Portage so as to protect this vital land link between Quebec City and Halifax. The signing of the Ashburton Treaty in 1842 resolved the conflict, ending the bloodless "Aroostook War" (after a river in Maine). Tensions rose again during the American Civil War, when it appeared Britain might be brought into the conflict. These tensions passed, the forts of the Grand-Portage were abandoned and fell into ruin. The original Fort Ingall, built had been built in 1839 on the south shore of Lake Temiscouata was dismantled and the wood used in building a number of the homes in Cabano. Archaeologists were able to uncover the remains of the fort, however, and it was rebuilt in 1973. Fort Ingall had been strategically positioned at end of the Grand-Portage. Once the lake was reached, travellers could follow the water the length of Lake Temiscouata, then down the Madawaska River to the Saint John River and thence to the Bay of Fundy.
I was back at the bike trail crossing next to the gare by 08:30. I decided, then, to take yet another short detour: This time I went down to the town wharf, which I had briefly seen the night before while looking for Pub du Lac. The wharf afforded a great opportunity to take some pictures of the lake. Standing at the end of the stone jetty, out by the lighthouse and in the lake breeze gave me a real feel for the maritime nature of the town of Cabano.
Ready to go at last, I rejoined the bike path once again. It followed a wide curvedaround the peninsula of the town, through a vast city park just below Commercial Street. As I neared the far edge the park, I noticed it was about to rain and decided it would be prudent to stop and change into my rain gear.
It was not until 09:00 that I finally left Cabano. I was starting out at kilometer 59 from the end of the Trail at Edmundston. The section of the Petit Témis Trail south of Cabano, along Lake Temiscouata, would be the nicest part of the trail. It ran, for the most part, right along the lakeside, at the bottom of an often steep cliff. Only occasionally was the wilderness broken by any houses. The light rain made it difficult to see far out onto the lake, but its presence soothed me.
I reached the town of Notre-Dame-du-lac, at kilometer 49, at 09:52. Along the way I had passed the most delightful alpine house, which looked like it could have come right out of the Swiss Alps. The spectacular lake view that one must have had from the house would have been interrupted only by the bike trail. I saw in the distance the ferry which crossed the lake at Notre-Dame-du-lac, located at a narrow spot at the lake’s midpoint. On the way into the town proper, the Bike Trail led right through the middle of a trailer court. Half of the trailers looked like Summer resort homes and the other half looked like permanent, year-round residences. I stopped when I reached the ferry terminus and took a short break.
Most of the town was built on the steep slope of the hillside, so I decided to leave the trail and ride up the brisk incline to get a better view from along the main street. The rain had abated and so I thought I might get a good panoramic photo of the lake. Alas, once I had reached the centre of town, the rain had set in again. There was no clearing through the buildings which would have allowed a good photo.
I was back on the trail at 10:15 and continued riding through town. At the far side, I stopped at the local marina, which offered a good view up and down the narrow lake. Beyond, the Trail left the town and led back into the wilderness.
Despite the rain, as it got later and later in the morning quite a number of cyclists collected along the Trail. I passed singles as well as whole groups out for a morning ride. Most cyclists seemed to be riding only the lakeshore section: From Cabano to Dégilis. Like myself, they seemed oblivious to the falling rain.
At 10:25, as I passed kilometer 46 and it was still raining, I began to ride through the most spectacular rock cutaways. There were 'haltes' every few kilometers. I've seen no rural bike trail with facilities as nice as those along the Petit Témis.
I stopped briefly at Halte l'Isle to relax on the bench underneath the abri, to enjoy a brief moment out of the rain. Suddenly I was accosted by a horde of young cyclists who settled all around me like flies, totally ignoring my personal space. The lady in charge of the group seemed oblivious to the bad manners of her group. I packed up my gear and moved on.
I realized I needed to find a quiet place along the trail where I could change my bike shorts. The old ones I was wearing had totally lost their elastic capability, with the result was that my legs where chafing. It had taken me a couple of days to identify exactly the cause of the problem. Once I changed into the newer, tighter shorts, the chafing problem went away immediately.
From 11:00 to 11:10, I was stopped at Halte Trestle, at kilometer 40. The rail trail had been going right along the cliffs of the shoreline, and at this point made an abrupt curve to cut through the point in a steep and dramatic cutaway. The walls of the rock cutaway were dripping with water and were lined with thick moss. The kilometer marker was simply painted on a handy piece of shale, the sort of rock through which the cut had been made. Past the 'halte' was the section where the Trail actually went out onto trestles out over the water and along the cliff's edge.
At 11:35 I came to the Dégelis town line, where I took at 0.5 km detour, to go along a side trail and get a close up view of the dam I had been watching come closer for some time. The dam is at the outlet of Lake Temiscouata, as it empties into the Madawaska River. The area is called Dégilis because the water at the lake’s outlet does not freeze in the Winter. Relatively warm water from the bottom of the lake is brought to the surface to flow over at shallow rock ledge at the outlet. This keeps the surface ice free, both at the outlet and for a ways down the river. The result is a Winter nesting ground for flocks of local ducks and geese who do not fly south for the Winter.
I reached the old train station at Dégelis at 12:00 Noon. The station had been re-furbished and now served as a town information centre. It was set amidst a well-groomed city park. I asked the ladies who were serving at the information centre about the history of the railroad that had subsequently become the Trail. They knew little more than that it had once been a CN line. Was it part of the original Inter-Colonial Railway? They could not be certain. I made a note to check up on that fact, but I was to discover that finding any information about this particular rail line would prove to be quite difficult!
It was time to check in with Sheryl, but I had no service on the cell. I left the Trail and rode the couple of blocks (relatively flat blocks, thankfully) into the town proper in order to find a pay phone. I finally located such a phone, only to discover that Sheryl, too, was out of service. (She was on her way to the herb place off in the hinterland that Mme. Levesque had told her about.]
I rejoined the trail and rode a short distance through town until I found a giant,rocking picnic table, sheltered by an abri. It was a great place to stop for a quick lunch.
I was on my way again at 12:35. What a change in the Trail south of Dégelis! Gone was the magnificent scenery offered by the lake and then by the river. The Trail now led through the bush of the flat bottomland of the Madawaska Valley. Its gravel line stretched on, straight-as-an-arrow, with nothing to break the monotony of the underbrush closing in sharply from either side. It was a highlight when the Trail finally came out alongside the highway, for a least there were curves and the cars provided something to look at besides a wall of scrub bush. Whereas the Trail had been quite well populated by cyclists all morning, south of Dégelis it was virtually deserted. I would end up meeting up with only two cyclists along the entire section from Dégelis to New Brunswick!
At 13:33 and kilometer 22, I came upon a cross by the roadside, marking the site where someone had been killed in an accident in 1966. There were fresh flowers. At another point I came upon a source of spring water. I passed some small ponds and lakes which held beaver houses. Finally, I saw a bridge up ahead, where the Trail crossed under the highway to continue along the same side as the Madawaska River. I had hopes that this section would be more interesting, but it proved not to be the case. The river had moved far over to the edge of the valley, well away from the road.
The road was now straight and the trail ran right alongside. I came upon a giant Irving gas station, sporting an enormous Canadian flag (an oddity in Quebec), and then soon thereafter was at the New Brunswick border. I reached the border at 14:00, which would be 15:00 in New Brunswick, as I was entering the Atlantic Time zone. I was losing an hour!
Right across the highway at the border was the New Brunswick Travel Centre. I decided it would be prudent to ride over and get some information and some maps. What I found inside was utter chaos! The place was packed with people, all desperately trying to find lodging. There were no rooms to be had all the way down past Grand Falls! It turned out that not only was the Monday (Aug 5) a provincial holiday for all of New Brunswick, but this weekend was also that of the Foire Brayonne, a local celebration for New Brunswick francophones. The Foire Brayonne was centred on Edmundston. I had been totally unprepared for this turn of events.
I tried calling Sheryl from one of the pay phones they had there, but she was still not within service range. I was wracked with questions: Should we go back to Rivière du Loup? Should we return at the end of the weekend? I would have loved to have conferred with her. Since I could not reach her, though, I decided to return to the desk and do my best. I finally managed to book a campsite at the Iroquois Campground, located on an Indian reservation just to the south of Edmundston. I was not too thrilled by the prospect of unpacking the entire car in order to set up the tent in the rain. I was certain Sheryl would not appreciate it either. (Although we had brought the tent for just this sort of eventuality, all the camping gear was stored deep within the trunk, behind everything else. After camping, it would all be wet and difficult to stow)
It was 15:45 (NB time) when I left the Visitor's Centre and headed back towards the Trail. Right at the border was a small exhibition of airplanes, which I stopped a few minutes to investigate.
The Trail continued on in the same boring manner as before, a thin gravel ribbon alongside the grassy border of the highway. The valley was growing ever more narrow, however, bringing the river and the surrounding hills closer to view. Road construction forced the abandonment of the old railway right-of-way, and I found myself riding along a section of new 'bike trail', whose gravel was so new and soft I could hardly proceed. I finally gave up and crossed over to the frontage road of the highway. South of the construction, the highway was all four-laned freeway.
As I was riding past Exit #8, the St. Jacques Exit, I noticed a motel across the road which looked pretty empty. The new freeway and all the roadwork had left it fairly isolated. Something called to me (God's hand?) and so I rode over the freeway to the other side and came around on the side road to check the motel out. It was 16:30. A young girl named Julie responded to my question, "Do you have a room?" Yes, they had one. I took it on the spot, with an option for a second day, which had to be exercised within a few hours. The owner was right there, so I asked him how they could still have rooms when everything was booked solid. He said they did not take reservations, that they would fill up anyway, on a first-come-first-served basis. It was far less hassle to operate that way than to wait for people coming in by reservation. It certainly worked out well for me. I figured, with Sheryl's approval, that we would have to sit tight for a couple of days, until Sunday night, when people would start heading home.
At the Tourist Centre, I had picked up the New Brunswick Tour Guide, which listed all of the lodging for the entire province in a single, tiny booklet. The province is not well served with motels. I remembered that I had faced a similar problem in 1990, when picking up my father. The same holiday had come upon us unexpected and we were almost left without a back then as well.
I still could not reach Sheryl, but left my phone on as I rode back to the Trail. It was 16:45 and I was still a fair ways out of Edmundston proper. I wanted to finish my trek for the day by reaching the official end of the Petit Témis Trail.. She ended up calling at 17:10. She had just reached the Visitor's Centre at the border. The reception was very bad, but I managed to get the message across that we already had a room and that she should “book lodging for Grand Falls for ‘Sunday’ night”. I would explain later. I told her we would meet in Edmundston when she was done.
As the Trail approached Edmundston, it began to get a little more interesting. The valley had become quite narrow by this point and was surrounded by low hills. To my right was a ski hill. The Trail led, at last, away from the highway, to run right alongside the river once again. The river flowed in a large elbow shape, making for a point on the opposite side, which was dominated by a giant trailer park. At 17:48, I came to an old railway trestle, which carried me over to the far side of the river. From the trestle, I had a clear view of highway bridges, looking both up and down the river.
Just beyond the trestle and amidst a large vacant lot (for houses were beginning to fill in around me), I came upon the end-of-steel. An industrial spur remained of the old railway and the Bike Trail left the old right-of-way to head off into the trees where it twisted and turned its way through a vast city park. At one point I came upon a golf course which provided a tunnel under the fairway for the cyclists. Below me, down the hill towards the river, were the railroad tracks.
Coming out of the park, the Bike Trail led right alongside the river in a narrow city park, lined with benches and small shelters. Just alongside was the railway. There was a point where a spur led off into the giant pulp and paper mill which I passed. Finally, the Bike Trail came to an inglorious end at the centre of town, where there was yet another giant city park.
The old rail line was at the bottom of the steep-walled valley, alongside the river. All around me the city of Edmundston climbed up the sides of the hills which formed the valley. To my right, far above the city, could be seen the new freeway. I had came out at the old train station, now completely boarded up. It was 17:56.
My access to the final few hundred meters of the Bike Trail, as it crossed the city park to the Old Blockhouse, was blocked by the fairgrounds for La Foire Brayonne. I found close by, however, a convenient Tourist Information kiosk, where the young attendant filled me in on what the Foire Brayonne was. The festival would last all weekend. There would be nighttime concerts at "le parking" (I thought at first this referred to a nightclub or arena. It turned out that he meant the municipal parking garage downtown.). He suggested I had to sample the local delicacy called "ploye" while I was there. ( I would have some the next day. It was a sort of sugared pancake.)
While I was cooling my heels at the tourist info in downtown Edmundston, Sheryl called me from the Tourist Centre at the Quebec/NB Border. As I had instructed her, she had booked a room for us in Grand Falls on the Sunday night. With the help of the young kid at my end, I gave Sheryl driving instructions and twenty minutes later, she has arrived at the park. I had already stripped the bike and so all was ready to load onto the car. We packed up and I directed her back up the road she had already traversed, back to the motel I had engaged.
Sheryl’s Day: Cabano to Edmundston: 122 miles on the odometer (530-418)
Once I had left at 08:00, Sheryl returned to speak more with Mme. Levesque, who gave her directions to a place called “Viv-Herbes” in the town of LeJeune (well off-road). Sheryl went and checked out the marché aux puces in Cabano, and then the shoe store, where she bought some shoes. When I called her at 12:00, she was already on her way to "Viv-Herbes", following the directions given her by Mmr. Levesque. She would eventually found the place and spend the afternoon there. She had also marked in her book: *Jardin de la Petit Ecole, in Notre Dame du Lac, but this was crossed out, so presumably she did not go there or failed to find it. When Sheryl contacted me, I gave her directions to find me in town.
On the way back to the motel, I told Sheryl of the plan that I had hatched. Clearly no rooms would be available further ahead on the Saturday night, so we might as well stay two nights in Edmundston, where we had a room. We could spend the following day just exploring the area together and it would be a day off of bicycling. She agreed with the plan, so when we got to the motel I dropped back into the office and paid 'Julie', who had already forgotten me, for the additional night.
Once my bike was off-loaded and stowed within the room, Sheryl and I drove back into town and parked at the town centre, near where the streets were closed off for 'La fete des parking', which would be a large, outdoor disco. Lots of people were already hanging around the outside the barriers, so we had the chance to talk up one of the security guards. She was clearly a 'Brayonne', and proud of her heritage.
As the rather pricey disco did not seem to be for us, we took a walk down the hill and had dinner a block or so away at an 'International Restaurant'. The Thursday night spread was two steaks for the price of one: $12. The restaurant was quite crowded and the steaks were great, as were the vegetables that accompanied them. An organ player gave us live music, though it consisted mostly of music that would have been my parents' favourites.
After supper, we walked up and down the short three block main street of the town, taking in the crowds. The street had been closed to traffic and people of all ages were everywhere, just hanging out. We happened on a convenience store which was also a used book store, and so we browsed the books and bought a few.
We walked then by the Tim Horton's at the corner, where I got some regular coffee and Sheryl had an iced cappuccino.
We returned to the car just about the time that the music was about to begin. I decided to try a new way back, taking the surface road rather than the freeway upon which we had already traveled twice and three times (Sheryl). Along the way, out in the middle of nowhere, I stopped at a convenience store which was the lone light in the darkness. Although my goal had just been ice, we had a good time exploring the tiny store, which was full of monster tools, giant wrenches, power tools, and the like.
Continuing along the dark road, I got lost. I realized that I was on the wrong side of the river and lost confidence that there would eventually be a bridge. Eventually, I lost my confidence and turned around and drove all the way back into town. In the dark, it had seemed like the road was disintegrating into little more than a cow track. (I would, in fact, discover a bridge the next day, one at St. Jacques, just across from our motel. I could have continued.) Once back into town, I returned along the now quite familiar freeway (This would be the third time, thus far, that I had made the short drive between the motel and town along the freeway. I would make the drive many more times!)
Since it was to be a rest day, we got up later than usual, at around 07:30. We walked over to the restaurant attached to the motel, where we sat in the sun by a big picture window overlooking the valley and had a breakfast of the usual: Two eggs, sausage, toast and coffee.
Following breakfast, we headed off for our first outing of the day, to visit New Brunswick's nascent Botanical Gardens, located across the highway at the very same freeway exit as our motel. These gardens were small and clearly quite new, but everything was very nicely done. Signs indicated that help in setting the gardens up had come from the experts at the Montreal Botanical Gardens Our only complaint was that the various plants could have been better labelled.
The day warmed into a nice, sunny day as we did the walking tour of the Gardens. The setting was beautiful, located on the flat valley floor, next to the river and enclosed by the hills of either side.
Once we had finished our walking tour, we spent some time looking through the museum store and ended up buying some books and souvenir t-shirts. The outdoor terrace café of the Botanical Gardens looked very appealing and so we decided it would be an excellent place to have some lunch: I had a beer and tried some traditional 'ploye', a sort of buckwheat pancake. Sheryl had a coke and some great salad.
The Botanical Gardens formed part of a provincial government complex that also included a golf course and a tiny car museum. The car museum was right across the parking lot from the Gardens and so I convinced Sheryl that we should walk over there to see if they had any useful books in their museum store. They did not.
Finished then at the complex, we got onto the freeway and I made the short trip into town along the route that I was traversing for the fourth time. We went to check out a small flea market that we had passed on our evening drive of the night before. Sheryl referred to it as the “Car Wash Marche aux Puces”. The old guy who ran it struck up a conversation with Sheryl about her herbology and then went into his favourite topic of 'digital acupuncture'. We learned that he was originally from Montreal and had been in Edmundston for only one year. According to him there were just three kinds of people in the world. He claimed to be able to tell our personality just from the way we walked in. 'Faut être bien grondé,' he would say. We were there from about 15:00 to about 16:00
Sheryl wanted to ask about the location of a candle shop (Chandalles Artisanales) that was listed in her booklet of 'éco-musées. After some driving around, we finally found Edmundston's main tourist information centre and discovered that the candle shop was back in the town of St. Jacques, where our motel was located. I then had the occasion to take the same 8 km stretch of freeway for the 5th time, as we hustled to the candle shop so as to arrive before they would close at 17:00 We got there at 16:30 and hung out until 17:15.
The éco-musées are stores where people can observe and take part in the 'hands-on' experience of arts and crafts. This store's focus was on candle-making and, in addition to the candles on sale, there was lots of information on the walls about the history and art of candle-making. I learned about 'abidou', the missing ingredient in the old flint & steel tinderboxes of the days before matches. Made from a particular kind of dried mushroom, it would burst into flame at the merest contact with sparks.
Once we were finished at the candle store, it was after 17:00 and the local stores were all closed. What were we to do? We decided to drive back into town and walk across the bridge to the U.S. side, where it was an hour earlier. The U.S. border officials were very friendly and welcomed us to Madawaska, Maine. There was one old guy, who was a local and 'Brayonne' and a young woman from Buffalo. The main street of Madawaska was pretty deserted. We walked down about five blocks, as far as the K-Mart, where we got a can of soda and Sheryl did some minor shopping. As we walked back, all the stores, such as they were, had also closed. The only open store was a tiny Bible shop. We walked in and looked around for five minutes, but the shopkeeper never came out of the back room, where he was watching television.
We finally walked our way back across the bridge and declared all to the Canadian Customs official, who let us pass. Although there was no official exemption for visits of one hour, it seems that they will let slide purchases of under $20.
We drove to supper at a family restaurant on the hill, near the park where I had stopped the day before, where I had the fisherman's platter and Sheryl had fajitas.
Not wanting to take the same 8 km freeway route for the 6th time, I drove out along the old highway. Now that I had gotten the lay of the land, and since it was still daylight, I felt more confident than I had the night before. Along the way we passed the most interesting display of gas station antiques that this private citizen had set up in his back yard. (I would grab some pictures of this the next morning.)
We returned to the motel and spent the evening relaxing.
I got up at 06:00 and packed up my bike while Sheryl slept in. We were both finally out at 07:00 and went over to the motel restaurant for the second day in a row. We were served by 'Julie', a very talkative girl, instead of the black-haired girl of the day before. We had a table by the window and looked out on the valley as we ate our bacon and eggs from 07:00 to 08:00
Sheryl sent me on my way at 08:15. I rode back up over the highway and once more down into the little hamlet of St. Jacques. I decided there that I would follow the old road into town instead of taking the bike trail. Not only was it a more more direct route, but I had already ridden in along the bike trail. Soon the old road crossed over to the other side of the new highway and climbed up onto the high ground, becoming 'Canada Road' and overlooking the valley.
I passed once more by the display of nostalgia owned by M. Levesque. It seemed very interesting, so where I stopped to grab a picture.
As I rode on into town, I had passed by the pulp and paper mill and finally came into the built-up area of Edmundston. High up on the hill, with the factory spread out below , was a stone monument to Fraser & Matheson, with information plaques describing the founding of Edmundston. I stopped a few minutes to read them and to take photos.
Entrepreneurship and the foundation of Edmundson
"On the 50 acres on suitable for cultivation, there is plenty of strawberry, raspberry and blueberry." - Catherine Guérin, sister Hospitalier of St. Joseph. Saint-Basile
1873 - Seven poor women were amongst the first great entrepreneurs. Since the beginning of this period, Madawaska is now a well-defined territory. It has a population of 7,300, [most] of which is of French origin. It is the most French county in NB. For the next 43 years, major developments occur in this area, thanks to great entrepreneurs. We might say it is almost a second debut for Madawaska. The vanguard of those entrepreneurs arrives at Saint-Basile in two groups, on October 4 and 11, 1873. They are seven poor women: Josephine Brissette; Rachel Chapeleau; Alphonsine Colette; Lucie-Virginie Davignon; Philomène Descoteaux; Catherine Guérin and Alphonsine Ranger (mother Maillet). They are the first Hospitaliers of St. Joseph sisters responsible for an impressive number of great realizations in Madawaska, including Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph, Edmundston's first modern hospital that stood not far from here until 1991, at 54, 21st Avenue.
Edmundston becomes a railway network
Next came the railroads. The first line connected Edmundston to Fredericton (New Brunswick Railway - Canadian Pacific 1878). The Temiscouata Railway set up the section between Edmundston and Rivière-du-Loup (130 km) in 1889 and the section between Edmundston and Connors (51 km)in 1891. The International (I.N.R.) opened a line between Edmundston and Campbelton (212 km) in 1910. The Transcontinental completed the Edmundston to Moncton line (400 km) in 1912. In 1917, during a major restructuring of Canadian railways, the Canadian National Railway acquired many companies throughout the country including the Transcontinental and International railways.
Edmundston an incorporated town; Fraser a booming business
The first incorporatated towns in upper St. John appeared during this period: Grand Falls in 1986; Edmundston in 1905 and St. Leonard in 1920. A major development occurs in 1916 when Fraser undertakes the construction of the first paper mill in northern NB, a 4 million dollar project. Edmundston leaps forward, its population increasing by 121% in 10 years.
Edmundston - water sells for 5 c/ a bucket
In 1909, Edmundston committed to supply up to 500,000 litres of water per day to the Transcontinental railway that needed water for its steam engines. A pumping station was built down Rice Street. The first distribution network included 112 clients and 42 hydrants. Before that, Edmundston residents had to manually pump water from family wells, or buy water from carriers at 5 c/ a bucket.
Up to our days, Edmundston is still the only city in NB to produce and distribute electricity. The first production site - a wooden dam - was built at the Second Fall on Green River, 18 km from Edmundston. The transmission line gave Power Road its name; it ended at the pump house on Aqueduc Street. The population of Edmundston which was 1821 in 1911 increased to 4035 in 1921. Madawaska - Growing at a faster pace than NB
Population increases faster in Madawaska than in NB. In the 1911 census, Madawaska has a population of 16,678. Madawaska which represented 2.5% of the total population of NB in 1871, represented more than 5% in 1921…
Key words and expressions from Madawaska
Brayon - Brayonne
During World War I, Guilman Gagnél a Madawaskan soldier in France, wrote a letter published in Le Madawaska (December 6, 1917): Charming French ladies and beautiful Englishwomen will never have in our view the sweet appeal of our <<Madawaskan Brayonnes>>. This is the first written mention found to date where the word Brayon or Brayonne is used to describe people from Madawaska. For generations, the word was taboo because originally it means rags, tatters, worn-out clothes. Pascal Poirier's Acadian glossary says that To be dressed in "brayon", means to be dressed in rags.
It is amusing to discover that local elders on the farm used the word brayon for the breechcloth put on the rams to prevent them from going with the female sheep. Docythe Lang relates the unwritten tradition: "In the old time, men used to portage to Rivière-du-Loup. They traveled with a horse and carriage or on foot. The guys would go and stop at houses. They went to see the women. Ladies from over there would say to the men: We're gone a fit you with brayons (breechcloth). That is why men from New Brunswick were called Brayons. That stayed. Many don't know this story. Myself, I know it. My father and my grandfather told it to me" (Taped interviews from La Foule Brayonne, 1970).
The younger generation from the 1960s and 1970s made the word Brayon more fashionable my linking it with the old operation of flax grinding called broyage or brayage in French. We know that similarly to the rest of NB and eastern Quebec, Madawaska cultivated flax up to the end of the 19th century. In 1891, for instance, Madawaska produced 4, 372 yards of flax cloth, the 3rd most important production of flax cloth in the province following that of Gloucester and Kent Counties. Neighbouring Quebec counties however produced much more: 22, 159 yard in Temiscouata; 36,735 yard in Kamouraska. Anyway, the word brayon certainly recalls something from the difficult beginning of the colony.
It has more of a party ring to it since Edmundston's summer festival the Foire Brayonne (1st in 1979) has popularized the word Brayon in its regional tourism marketing approach. Many residents of northwestern NB identify with the word (62% according to a survey of 1979), but others reject it as a "strange and foreign" word; they prefer being called Madawaskans. Oddly, people from Bray, a little known part of northwestern Normandy in France, call themselves Brayants, Braytois or Brayons, even though no relation has been found between the two words nor the two regions.
Typical activities and occupations
Farmers, cattle breeders, berry pickers - 200 geese for the States!
Agriculture is still the main industry during this period. In 1881, there are 110 farmers among the 189 people in Edmundston whose occupations are known. A large number of Madawaskans live on agriculture, berry picking, cattle raising, fishing and hunting. Part of the production is exported. A newspaper of that time, Le Moniteur Acadien, reports "An important berry trade is going on betweeen Madawaska County and the United States. It has been said that inhabitants of Grand Falls and Little Falls have exported 100 tons of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries during summer" (July 19, 1887). Another issue of that paper reports that "a wagon load of cattle left Edmundston the other day for Brighton in the United States with the following animals: 30 horses and animals, 200 geese, 100 turkeys and 50 ducks" (Le Moniteur Acadien, November 18, 1887)
Postmaster - Edmundston, the post office name becomes the city's name
The appointment of a first postmaster in Little Falls dates back to the middle of the 19th century. From the 1851 census, it seems that John T. Hodgson was the first one. He held that position until 1875. Most probably he would be the one who gave the name to the Edmundston post office in 1851, replacing the name Petit Sault or Little Falls, as we can see from postmarks of that period. The list of other postmasters in Edmundston includes Georges A. Bois (1875-1880) and the Hartt family, Frank and his sisters Emma and Albe.
The postmaster is often a storekeeper who takes up the job to supplement his income. He sorts the mail according to a priority order: first the letters with a stamp; next letter or newspapers with postae paid in cash; letters without stamps due to a corresponding post office; last, letters without stamps and due to outside localities. The postmaster was allowed to issue money orders up to $100. NB had jurisdiction over postal service up to Confederation time.
Section foreman - six weeks and one day to travel both ways between Edmundston and Grand Falls.
Many new occupations appear with the Train Era, like that of section foremen responsible for the maintenance of track sections. During wintertime, snow had to be removed from the railway: snowstorms could paralyze the service. One of the most memorable snowstorms hit the area on February 27, 1887. It snowed for three days and three nights; snow got four feet high (122 cm). It took 180 men to remove the snow and break the ice. The first train to ride between Edmundston and Grand Falls took 6 weeks and 1 day for a round trip. Upkeep of the bridges was also very important. A spectacular accident occured on June 21, 1900, when a bridge upstream from Grand Falls collapsed under the train coming in from Edmundston. Among other passengers, the train was carrying children on their way back from a vacation at the Saint-Basile convent. The engine dived in 23 feet of water but fortunately there were no casualties.
Typical figures of this period
Alphonsine Ranger, mother Maillet, and the sisters Hospitaliers of St. Joseph - some of the greater entrepreneurs in Madawaska
Alphonsine Ranger (mother Maillet) arrives at Saint-Basile with the first Hospitalir of St. Joseph sisters. Madawaska owes a lot to those "sisters-entrepreneurs". In Education, they founded Mount Holy Family Academy in 1874, that later became the first village school of Saint-Basile under the name "Hôtel-Dieu Academy". In 1949, they also founded a classical college for girls.
In 1885, they built a convent and an orphanage which was the first brick building in Madawaska. To do this they had to set up their own brickyard that was in operation in 1885 and again from 1906 to 1908. In the health care sector, they built Madawaska's first hospital in Saint-Basile between 1877 and 1881. In 1915, the sisters replaced that hospital with a more modern one, the Hôtel-Dieu, which stayed in operation until 1945. There the sisters took care of those sick with the frequent diseases of the time: dipthreia, typhoid fever, the pox, the Spanish flu, not to mentio the care given to some 80 foreign labourers working on the Transcontinental railway project. In 1943, they also founded in Saint-Basile, the first nurses training school. In 1946, the sisters realized quite an achievement by opening two institutions in the same year: Hôtel-Dieu St. Joseph in Edmundston and St. Joseph Sanitorium in Saint-Basile, dedicated to the treatment of tuberculosis until 1959. Later on, between 1968 and 1972, the building served for long term treatments to become the St. Joseph Nursing Home in 1978.
In order to feed the patients as well as the members of the community, the sisters set up an important farm between 1893 and 1917, then a large hog farm and a poultry farm in 1921, next a vegetable cellar in 1932, the Model Hen house from 1949 to 1961, a turkey farm in 1953 and a modern dairy with pasteurization facilities in 1954. During a terrible thunderstorm in 1963, lightning hit the herd: 20 dairy cows; 17 heifers and one horse died of electrocution. The sisters abandoned the farm in 1965.
Robert Bob Connors - Industrialist in the Far West of Madawaska
Industrialist and businessman with a fiery character, Robert Connors was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, in 1828. He lived to be 67, which gave him enough time to build a small empire in Far West Madawaska. He thrived in the logging business and opened a large sawmill. At his peak, he employed 40 people running 14 saws. Bob Connors is the promoter of the Temiscouata railway between Edmundston and Connors. He died in March, 1895 at Hot Spring, Arkansas, where he had gone for treatments. Fire destroyed the luxurious hotel he had built in Connors, but one can still see his mansion - the locals call it "Connors Manor" - built between 1876 and 1878. Exotic wood, marble, carved motifs and scenes painted directly on the wall adorn this superb house and tell us a little about Connors ...
I did not have to ride on much further before I cam upon the now familiar downtown area. I rode down the hill of the main street and turned left on the rode along the St. John’s River. When I came upon the mouth of the Madawaska River, where it emptied into the St. John, I paused to get some photos. Below the reconstructed blockhouse was an information plaque:
On the knoll facing the Madawaska River, Fort Petit Sault was built in 1841 during the Boundary Conflict between the Province of New Brunswick and the State of Maine, about the Territory of Madawaska.
The fort was occupied by military companies until 1842. On August 9 of that year, the Ashburton-Webster treaty fixed the boundary and ended the dispute without any military action. The fort was destroyed by fire in the 1860s. (Erected by the Société historique du Madawaska)
With all my stops and explorations, it was 09:25 before I finally left the town of Edmundston proper, riding out along the river road, which had been the main highway before the freeway high up on the hill had been completed.
There was a brief touch of countryside as I rode through the Indian reservation. I passed by the Iroquois Campground, where I had made the unused reservations (I did cancel them.). When I left the reservation, I came out at the new, modern shopping plaza called Madawaska Centre. At this point, the old highway and the freeway came close together again. It was already 09:47 and the stores would open at 10:00, so I decided it would be prudent to drop into Zeller's and buy some more film (I bought 15 rolls for $50). While I waited for the store to open, I put on my suntan lotion, for it was promising to be a hot, sunny day; and I sprinkled some 3-in-1 Oil on my bicycle chain. For me to take a trip into a big store like Zeller's was not an undertaking to take lightly. It entailed the unpacking of all my gear, front and rear paniers, as they could not be locked up. I had to pile everything into a shopping basket and bring it in with me.
I resumed my ride at 10:15. The old highway was separated from the river by the width of the farmer's fields, and often shielded from view by a line of trees. Across the river, the U.S. shoreline could be seen rising up on the far side of the valley. To my left, atop the ridge and frequently visible, was the new freeway.
I came into the next town of St. Basile at 10:25. It was a small French-Canadian village which sported a huge seminary. The parking lot around the church at the centre of town was packed, but all was quiet outside. After reading the information plaques, about St. Basile being the cradle of the Madawaska region,
Hommage to the Pioneers: Saint-Basile Parish: 1792-1992
Cradle of the Madawaska
Hommage in 1996 to the Malecite First Nations
From the Grand Chief François-Xavier, chief of La Bourgade, and
from the Sachem Grand-Pierre Hantrwarik, his lieutenant.
The welcome that they knew how to give to the first colonists from
New France of Canada, in 1785, to their territory (Kaps-ku-sis-ug),
the small falls fo the "Madoues-kak", land of the 'Porcs-Épics', was the most cordial.
The name Madawaska is our pride.
I decided to take some time off to have a look at the 'Acadia Museum', down near the river's edge, below the cemetery facing the church. The museum was, of course, closed, but was interesting enough to see from the outside. It was housed in an old wooden cottage dating from 1785. The cottage had been built by the Cyr family, who were among the original settlers to the region:
The Alexis Cry House
Built at the beginning of the 19th century by Alexis Cry, at 2.4km up the St-John River, facing a cross erected on the south shore where the Acadian pioneers of Madawaska landed in 1785. Inherited by successive Cry generations down to Isidore Cyr.
1981 - Donated by the Cyr family to La Société Historique du Madawaska. Moved to this site by La Société Historique
1893 - Restored by La Société Historique with grants provided by the following: La Caisse Populaire de Saint-Basile Ltee., Fraser Inc., NB Tel., NB Ministry of Historical and Cultural Resources, Employment and Immigration Canada/ June 1984
It was 10:45 before I was once again on my way down the road. As I continued along the river valley, the St. John's River itself was only occasionally visible. On the far side, the companion U.S. road was almost always visible, and at about the same height above the river as I was. Beyond the Maine road climbed a series of green fields, up to the tree-lined crest of the valley. I imagine our side looked much the same. Occasionally, I would pass a small village or some other landmark, such as a church on the far side.
Parallel to the road on which I was cycling, down closer to the river, was a railroad track. As I rode along, a long freight train passed by. Alas, I was too slow with my camera to get a shot. I believe this CN line to be the main freight line from the Maritimes rest of Canada. It passes through Edmundston on its way to the upper reaches of the St. John's River and then over into Quebec.
The next town down the road was Rivière Verte, which I reached at 11:10. I decided to take a detour off the main road, which by-passed the town, so as to ride through the village proper. The detour only took me ten minutes and then I was back on the main road once again.
At 12:00, I was at the entrance to the town of Ste. Anne de Madawaska. I stopped for my regular check in with Sheryl, who was still back at the motel. (I would discover later, that most of my cell phone calls along this stretch would be picked up by American carriers, leading to a major hassle at billing time.)
I passed through Ste. Anne de Madawaska between 12:00 and 12:25.
I was at the Siegas town line at 12:35, ten minutes later. There I saw yet another long freight train pass. I crossed the 'new' road bridge, built in 1964, and saw next to it the 'old' road, also crossing in a bridge whose year of construction was not marked. (All along this section, I kept seeing traces of the 'older' road. It was ironic since the 'new' road upon I was riding one was now, itself, the 'old' road, having been superseded by the new freeway, whose presence just to my left could always be felt.
At 13:15, as I came to the town of St. Leonard, I could see an old abandoned railway trestle crossing the river and so decided to take a short detour along the 'New Brunwick Trail’ to get a better look at it. This supposed bike trail has a long way to go. It was little more than a cow track running down towards the river through the cow pastures. The surface had been completely torn up by ATV's. Nevertheless, I did manage to use it to get almost to the river's edge. Only the high embankment of the railway main line blocked my way. I stopped and left my bike, to climb up the embankment and get some photos.
The whole detour had lasted only fifteen minutes. I was back up on the main road by 13:30 and was riding on into town. I stopped into a small depanneur to buy some drinks to go along with my lunch: A coke and some cold 'Starbucks' coffee in a bottle. I also bought some fresh ice for my tiny cooler.I asked the young girl in attendance where there was a good place in town for a picnic. Her response was precious: “Tournez <<drette>> aux quatre coins, descends aux <<tracks>>, près des douanes »
14:00 found me down by the riverside at St. Leonard’s Marina Park sitting under the sun roofed of a picnic table and enjoying the view. I was just downriver from the international bridge, with its customs houses on both sides. Besides my coke and cold coffee in a bottle, my lunch consisted of hummus and the rest of the bread I had bought in Rivière du loup. Alas, I had to throw it half of the remaining bread as it had gone mouldy.
On a whim, I decided to ride out onto the bridge for a better photo both up and down river. At first I had only intended to ride to the centre, but once there I figured I might as well ride on across and take a short gander on the U.S. side. What a mistake this would turn out to be!
I pulled up to the window on my bike and explained that I was riding down the St. John's River along the Canadian side, but figured I would come over to the U.S. side for a quick look of a few minutes. The agent asked for my ID, so I tendered by passport. He examined it, punched some numbers into his computer, and then read the whole passport attentively. Finally he asked me to park the bike and to step inside. My blood pressure began to rise. The agent handed my passport over to another old gentleman, who was currently busy charging some Europeans whatever new fees there now are for entering the U.S. I was left to stand there, ignored, for a number of minutes. Another gentleman was there and I thought he was ahead of me. He was in uniform, with a sidearm. I finally realized he was a soldier on guard.
At last, the agent behind the counter was ready for me. He asked me the same questions I had been asked before. He still had my passport in hand as he walked away and sat down in front of his computer. He spent the longest time punching in numbers and examining computer screens, all the while with a very worried face. Finally, after what seemed like forever, but was really only 15 minutes (14:30-14:45) he came back and handed me my passport and said, "Okay". "Okay what?" I asked. “What was the problem?” “Oh, there's no problem” was his retort.
I was quite shaken up by the experience, so my visit to Van Buren, Maine was pretty short. By 15:00 I was done and on my way back across the bridge to my own country. I had no hassle from the agents on the Canadian side. I called Sheryl once I was back across, but did not tell her yet about my adventures, for fear of worrying her unduly.
Just south of St. Leonard the old main road joined up with the new one, which ceased at that point to be a controlled-access freeway. It remained, nevertheless, a busy four-laned highway, but thankfully, there was a wide, paved shoulder upon which I could escape the heavy traffic whizzing by at 100+ kph
Not too much further down the road was the B&B where we had our reservations for the day. I passed it at 15:35, but since I had arranged with Sheryl during out 15:00 call to meet her there only at 17:00, I had an hour and a half to kill! The hour and a half remaining was really not long to ride all the way on into the nearby town of Grand Falls and still get back again (45 minutes each way), but I thought I would give it a try.
I rode in on along Hwy 2 as far as exit 175, the first Grand Falls exit, at which point the freeway turned south and crossed over the river. It was 16:00 by that time. It had taken me 25 minutes to get that far from the B&B. I realized that I had no time to ride on into Grand Falls and yet be back at the B&B by 17:00, so reluctantly, within sight of the city, I turned around.
As I rode back along the shoreline, I tried to spy on the opposite shore the exact spot where the U.S. border took its southerly turn. I had learned that the Trans-Canada Highway ran less than a mile east of the border, at the point where it turned southward. Still, I had no luck in seeing any visible landmark of the border on the far side.
On the way back, since I was on the inland side of the four-laned highway, I was able to see the part of the old Hwy 2, which ran alongside the freeway from the railway trestle to as far as the B & B. I took this quieter path most of the way back. Once at the B & B, I would learn that the 'new' four-laned section was about to be superseded by the freeway, yet under construction further up the hill. Then the 'old-old Hwy 2' would run next to the 'old Hwy 2'.
I got to the B&B at 16:45, checked in, and stowed the bike in the basement, next to the breakfast room. Our room was upstairs on the second floor, next to the common bathrooms and showers, along a long hallway of guest rooms. At either end of the hallway were common rooms, with couches and TVs. We had stayed in this very same B&B four years earlier, on our way to the Magdalene Islands.
Sheryl arrived right on schedule at 17:00
Sheryl’s Day: Edmundston to Grand Falls: 59 miles on the odometer (630-571)
After I left, Sheryl spent the morning up in the fields up behind the motel picking clover. She then chatted with the motel staff and learned their whole family history. She was still at the motel when I phoned in at 12:00. There was some dispute over whether I had paid for the second night. Once I insisted that I had paid “Julie” each time, they managed to find the charge receipt. Sheryl drove on into Edmundston proper, where she had lunch at MacDonald’s and did some shopping. She then set out along the old road that I was following: Route 144. She stopped at the same Zellers at Madawaska Centre where I had been earlier in the day, for some soft drinks. She got gas in Ste. Anne de Madawaska and stopped into the Dollarama in Saint Basile: Finally, she rolled on to the Mt. Assomption B & B to meet me at 17:00
Once we got settled and I showed Sheryl around, we left the B & B to drive on into town. First we took a short driveabout, up the main street and out the back to the top of the town by the freeway. Then we returned and parked along the main street, where we went into the very same restaurant we had frequented back in 1998: La Bouffe. I had pork chops and Sheryl had fried clams.
While waiting in the restaurant, I studied the map and compared it with the Lodging Guide, to determine how far I might go the next day. I settled on the town of Florenceville, where there was a motel (Which turned out not to be in Florenceville at all!), and called ahead for reservations.
We ended off our evening with coffee at the local Tim Horton's and then returned to our room at the B & B for 21:30.
I awoke at 06:30 and quickly ran to grab the communal shower before anyone else on the floor got up. We dressed and went downstairs for breakfast at 07:30. The breakfast room was in the basement and consisted of a large common room with several tables. Bread and an old, industrial toaster were supplied. Everyone had to make their own toast, to be accompanied by the juice and coffee that were provided.
After breakfast, I had to search out “the lady with the keys” in order to retrieve my bike from the storage room. Then I had to negotiate it through the narrow, basement doorway to get it outside to the parking lot.. I repacked it with the valuables I had stored in the room and then was set to be on my way. Sheryl saw me off in the parking lot with a kiss and a photo. She then retired back up to the room for a while to relax, as no stores were yet open.
It was 08:20 when I was on my way. I began by retracing my route of the afternoon before, although riding in along the old Hwy 2 as far as possible, and reached Grand Falls by 09:00. When I reached the point where the highway curved south to cross the river, I was into new territory. I stopped at a gas station depanneur on the way into town to fill up my little cooler with ice.
I saw the old railway bridge crossing the river just upstream of the dam, but did not yet realize that it now carried a bike path and that I could have gone into town this way. I proceeded instead along the old road, which dropped down into a steep gully to come to a crossroads just below the dam and falls. The Falls had a visitor's centre, so I went in and had a look around. The displays showed a great deal of interesting geological information, but alas, they had no publications with the same amount of detail.
Leaving the visitor's centre, I rode across the bridge into town, stopping on the way to snap some upstream photos. The old stone pillars from a previous bridge could still be seen.
The bridge brought me out at the foot of the main street, so I rode up to the top, past the restaurant where we had eaten the night before. Everything was basked in a great morning light which was excellent for photographs. I came around the top of the main street and rode back down to the bridge. Returning to the far side, I was now on the downstream side and got some pictures of the gorge below the falls.
My ride-about in Grand Falls was done by 09:45 and I headed on out. According to the map, I needed to connect with Highway 105, which would lead me down the eastern shore of the river, on the shore opposite from the Trans-Canada Highway. I would catch Highway 105 just past town. As it turned out, though, a serious climb out of the gorge awaited me before I would finally find Highway 105, well up behind town. Since I was already heading out into the farms, I was beginning to despair of having missed it.
As soon as I turned off onto the not-very-well-marked side road that was Highway 105, I began to drop back down again, losing all the potential energy I had so painfully just put in. I knew I was riding around town, on the far side of the gorge, but there were no vantage points from which I could see the canyon. By the time I came out at the river again, the gorge had already been left behind. Only gentle rapids remained to tell the tale.
Highway 105 turned out to be a very quiet road. For the most part, I was alone with the sounds of the surrounding countryside. Only on rare occasions was this silence interrupted by a passing car.
The road carried me along the crest of the ridge for a ways, well above the river, treating me with a great view of the river. Then the road cut away into the hills once again. I came over a low rise and saw a metal bridge far up ahead.
It was the bridge over the Salmon River, and I reached it at 10:40. From the crest of the hill, I had gradually descended into a wide valley, while passing myriad gravel pits. I imagine all the hills around the area must have been deposited by glaciers. I spent ten minutes relaxing at the bridge over this small tributary of the St. John's River, looking downstream as it meandered through the rocky gravel beds.
Upon setting out once again at 10:50, I immediately faced a fairly steep hill. The road climbed up about a hundred feet, to then run along the natural ledge of the big ridge forming the side of the valley. I was pretty well cut off from the river, although I knew it was below.
I came out to the river again at 11:05. I was at Brook's Bridge, a small one-lane crossing out in the middle of nowhere. Although the structure of the bridge was steel, the roadbed was wood. The 'town' consisted of little more than a liquour lounge. The St. John's River at this point was still very shallow and rocky, with gentle rapids. It seemed it might be deep enough for an attentive canoeist, but little else could pass on it.
From there, the highway proceeded more or less alongside the river, offering me frequent, soothing vistas of the water.. I passed St. Alban's Anglican Church in Medford, right on the river, at 11:10. At 11:45, I stopped to investigate a small bubbling brook, half-hidden in the trees, whose sound had called to me as I had ridden past. It is just these moments that are forever lost to those passing in automobiles. A few minutes later, I came upon St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Tilley.
Beyond Tilley, the highway began to climb steeply out of the narrow valley and began, at the same time, to turn away from the river. When I called Sheryl at 12:00, I was pretty well at the top of the long climb to the crest of the ridge and was stopped at the last point where I could see the river, now far below. The road turned abruptly to the left at that point, to head off into the hinterland.
Sheryl, as it turned out, was not far behind me, also on Highway 105. She told me to continue on ahead, and that she would meet me soon.
The road climbed its way up a small, tributary valley until, at a small, quaint town, it crossed over the tiny river that formed the valley. Beyond the crossing was yet more climbing as the road left the valley and headed up to the crest of the ridge ahead. While riding along, signs indicated that I had crossed into the Malecite Indian Reserve at Tobique.
I knew I had reached the summit when the road suddenly started dropping down through a narrow canyon. It was exciting following the road downward through its sharp twists and turns. I had obviously climbed up much higher than I had thought, for it was a long, long way down.
Sheryl caught up with me at 12:30, just as I was coming out at the bottom of the canyon. We were at a crossroads out in the middle of nowhere, with no place around conducive to having lunch, so I suggested she drive on ahead to the town of Perth-Andover, where she could scope out a good place to eat.
In my raw notes I wrote:
"Tilley Road turns from river, going inland along 'Little' River, up canyon to crossing. Climb hill and come down valley, down much, much further than it seemed I went up. Canyon. Tobique First Nation. Winding canyon. Meet Sheryl. She waits at intersection for me at bottom. I come down and out to road along river. River much different: wider, twice as wide, deeper (dam below)"
It would end up taking me another 40 minutes to finally get to Perth-Andover. I would not arrive until 13:10. Unbeknownst to me, there remained several large hills to climb up and over, as well as a dam to cross. When I finally came back out at the St. John’s River, its nature had completely changed. Where before it had been shallow and rocky, with lots of rapids, it was now a deep, dark blue. The water was calm and I surmised was quite deep enough for boating, although I saw no boats. On the final approach to Perth-Andover, the road burst out of an opening in the ridge and descended to just above the water. To my left rose the ridge, in near cliff-like fashion. Ahead, far off in the distance, I could see the town and its bridge.
I might mention that, since starting out on Highway 105 at Grand Falls, I had seen very little sign of civilization. Apart from the few very small towns, identified only by their churches, and a few occasional farmsteads, most of the way had been unbroken forest.
Perth-Amboy was the first real town I had encountered. I could see the built-up area on the far side, even before I reached the town on my side. Although not as large as Grand-Falls, it was clearly a major centre. I remembered having left the Trans-Canada at Perth-Amboy in 1998, on our way to the Magdalen Islands, and having driven a ways along Highway 105. Over the next section, then, I would technically no longer be riding along formerly unseen road. Everything is a new experience on a bicycle, of course.
Sheryl was waiting for me at a bench along the magnificent boardwalk that the town had built along the river's edge. While I had a lunch of crackers and baba-genouj from my coller, Sheryl had to go across the road to the fast-food restaurant to get a hot dog and some coke.
It was clear that all sign of French had been left behind at Grand Falls. We were now in a totally English-speaking environment. The last sign of “la francophonie” that I had seen had been the 'Hotel Dieu’ of St. Joseph'.
Lunch was from 13:10 to 13:40. Satisfied, I bade farewell to Sheryl and set out along the road, which continued to run right alongside the river. Soon Sheryl passed me by. A while later, I spied her parked car up ahead. She was busy picking plants alongside the highway. It was 14:35 and I was somewhere near the Muniac River.
A bit further on, I ran into some hills. The river was going through some kind of water gap, but the road builders had chosen to climb up and over the ridge. I toyed with the idea of taking the New Brunswick Trail, the old CP-line now turned into bike path, which had been my constant companion for some way. It clearly went along the flat, right alongside the river. The trail surface was very poor, however, and my short experience on the New Brunwick Trail the day before did not bode well. I left the road and followed the trail past the first hill, but I could tell the poor condition of the trail offered no future. I had a long climb to get back up to the highway.
At 15:00, near Kent and the Route 565 junction, and at the top of yet another long hill, I made my scheduled phone check-in with Sheryl. She was in the lead again, somewhere between Bath and Bristol.
I was able to catch my companion roadway, the New Brunswick Trail, which had at one point been the CP Rail line, in a photo as it crossed Bumfrow Creek
I came even with Beechwood Dam at 15:25. Little did I know that my motel was directly across the river from that point and that I would end up doubling back all the following way!
(When I had looked up the motel the evening before, it was listed as being in 'Florenceville', a fact that the attendant even confirmed. It turned out that it was not in Florenceville at all, but a good 10km north of there, along the Trans-Canada on the other side. When I would complain upon arriving, the attendant found no problem with the lising. Since lodging in New Brunswick seemed to be such a problem, I had learned to phone ahead, estimating what seemed to be about the right distance for the day.)
I knew when I reached the dam that it was the reason for the river's having changed its character so much by the time I had come back down to it, just north of Perth-Amboy. The dam represented a drop of about 100 feet and just below, the river resumed the shallow, rocky nature it had shown before.
I came to the town of Bath at 15:50. Although the highway's bridge over the town's creek was interesting, but even more so was the old steel trestle along which the NB Trail now ran. The creek joined the St. John's River, now rough again with swirling rapids.
There was yet another climb between the towns of Bath and Bristol. From high atop the crest of the ridge, I could only see the river faintly far below. Unlike earlier portions of the road, the segment between Bath and Bristol was quite populated and I was seldom out of sight of a house.
Bristol had maintained their old train station, and had a section track with several passenger rail cars as a railway museum. Alas, I had no time to stop, for it was already 16:15. The bridge at Florenceville was already in sight, just downriver. On my way through town, I came upon an RCMP roadblock that was causing quite a traffic jam. The police were busy checking for seat belts. The road way was so narrow that I could not squeeze ahead, so I just kept my place in line. When I got to the officer, he let me pass with a chuckle.
I got to Florenceville at 16:40 and soon arrived at the intersection with the Trans-Canada Highway. Like the cars, I had to ride up and around the big cloverleaf and onto the main highway itself. I knew I would have to double back along Highway 2, on the far side of the river, in order to get to the motel. I had no idea yet just how far I would have to go but as I pondered the relationship between 'Beechwood Dam' and 'Beechwood Motel', I began to worry.
In fact, it would take me a full hour to ride all the way back, and to discover that the motel was, indeed, right at the Beechwood Dam. Thankfully, the Trans-Canada Highway had wide, concrete shoulders, for the cars were zooming by at well over the 100km speed limit. There would be several long ups and downs before I would reach the motel and, to make things worse, I had turned into a strong headwind.
Along the way, I passed a road whose name was 'Bristol Ferry Road', obviously a reflection of older times.
Just as I was despairing that I could not climb over yet another one of the long hills, and as my prayer went out to Jesus, I came over the rise, turned a corner and saw the motel far up ahead. I arrived at 17:40. I had travelled 10km and exactly hour out of my way. I was directly across the river from where I had been at 15:25.
Sheryl was waiting for me, sunning herself out on the lawn furniture.
Sheryl’s Day: Grand Falls to Beechwood: 100 miles on the odometer (730-630)
Sheryl started out not too soon after I had left, waiting only for the stores to open. She spent the morning checking out garage sales in Grand Falls, and then set out along Highway 105 to follow me. She was just behind me when I called her at 12:00 and caught up with me at 12:30. We met at Perth-Amboy, where we had lunch together by the river (13:10-13:40). She lingered in town a few minutes, but had soon passed me by. She stopped a ways down the road, near the Muniac River, and began picking St. John’s Wort and Tansy. She was busy picking when I passed her at 14:35. She must have then passed me while I was off-road on the NB Trail, for when I called her at 15:00, she was somewhere between Bath and Bristol. She must have descended to Florenceville, crossed over, and returned up Hwy 2 to the Beechwood Motel, where she checked in and relaxed outside in the sun to await my arrival.
I quickly showered and changed. Then we walked over to the motel restaurant. Since the motel complex was out in the middle of nowhere, far from any town, there was no choice or restaurant. I had two Moosehead Beers. We both had chicken noodle soup and then I had liver & onions while Sheryl had pork chops.
Once back at the room, Sheryl retired, but I was restless and went out for a walk. I hiked across the highway and descended the road down to the dam, just to satisfy myself that I could not have gotten across ealier. There was, indeed, a walkway, but it was locked.
We were both up at 06:00 and out to the motel restaurant for breakfast by 06:45. After breakfast, I bought some ice for my tiny cooler, passing the rest to Sheryl, and was on my at by 08:00
The first order of business was to re-trace the 10 km back along the Trans-Canada, to get back once again to Florenceville and Highway 105. Thanks to God, the strong wind of the evening before was still with me, only now it was a tailwind. The wind pushed me back along the familiar road and I was back at Florenceville in only 45 minutes. As I crossed over the bridge, I got a great photo downriver. The old Florenceville bridge could clearly be seen not too far away. The day was turning out to be a beautiful one, with bright, blue skies.
At 08:45, I exited the Trans-Canada at the Florenceville exit, rode around the massive cloverleaf and was back onto the quiet Highway 105. The old highway continued to run right alongside the river.
At 09:17, I was leaving the ‘town’ of Riverbank, the next town in line below Florenceville. Riverbank was nothing more than a long series of roadside houses and farms. There had been no town centre. The road had climbed up onto a high embankment, so that on my right was only a steep cliff through which, down below, I could only catch momentary glimpses of the river.
By 09:40 and thanking the Lord for the continued strong tailwind, I had reached the hamlet of Upper Brighton. The promise of the early morning had kept true and the day was sunny, though cool. Up ahead I could see big clouds that threatened rain, but the strong wind was still behind and pushing me, as well as keeping the bank of clouds well off ahead so that I could stay in the sunshine. The road was very quiet. There were no cars and I had passed almost no people out in their yards.
At 10:00, I was overlooking the town of Haartland and the scenic Trans-Canada Bridge which had so impressed me when I first noticed it back in 1998. At the bridge was a highway interchange and a small commercial centre. A market stood close by, so I decided to stop in and buy some food for my lunch. I also went into a dollar store and bought some postcards and a comb. The shopping stop lasted until 10:30.
From the heights, the road dropped quickly down to the base of the river gorge, where the actual town of Haartland, with its historic covered bridge, are located. I stopped to check out the bridge, which Sheryl and I had first explored back in 1998.
1899 Hartland Bridge Company was formed by a group of private citizens who were tired of waiting for the government to decide whether or not to build a bridge across the St. John River at Hartland.
1901 July 4, 1901 the bridge was officially opened with the following tolls charged: Three cents for pedestrians, six cents for a single horse and wagon, twelve cents for a double team. A strip of twenty tickets could be purchased for fifty cents.
1906 The provincial government took over the ownership and maintenance of the bridge and removed the tolls.
1920 In April of 1920 two spans of the bridge were swept away by the ice.
1922 The bridge was covered and in the early years snow had to be hauled and placed on the floor so the sleds could easily travel on it in the winter.
1924 Lights were installed on the bridge.
1945 Sidewalk was added which is a small bridge in itself.
1980 On June 23, 1980 the bridge was declared a national historic site.
1982 Small car ran into the west end of the bridge on the Somerville side and did extensive damage. The bridge was closed for several months while repairs were done.
1987 The Olympic torch was carried through the bridge as part of celebrations of the 1988 Winter Olympics to be held in Calgary.
1995 On September 1. 1995 Canada Post Corporation launched a postage stamp honouring the bridge.
1999 On September 15, 1999 the bridge was declared a provincial historic site.
2001 Festivities celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the bridge were held in 2001.
The bridge consists of 7 spans and was constructed at a cost of approximately $33,000.00.
Then I went into the gift shop and looked around, buying Sheryl a souvenir cup. I rode across the bridge on the pedestrian walkway and briefly checked out the far side of the river. When I returned to Haartland, I scoped out an antique store to see if it would be of any interest to Sheryl, who would be following along. I finally set out from Haartland at 11:15
Not too far outside of town, I came once more to a point where the road climbed up a big hill and turned away from the river while the parallel New Brunswick Trail continued on the flat and right alongside the water. I decided to give the trail another chance, though I worried about where and how it might come out. It was certainly pleasant to be riding on a protected right-of-way, away from the road and right by the water.
I met two ladies who were walking in the opposite direction and asked them if they knew where the trail joined up again with the road. They told me I could continue on the trail almost all the way to Woodstock, where it would end at an old railway trestle which was washed out.
I felt better continuing on, knowing that there was an exit at the far end. I was able to relax and enjoy the wonderful 'country' experience of riding alongside the river, away from all signs of civilization. For the first time since I had noticed the New Brunwick Trail, the trail surface itself was not too bad. The surface would continue to be fairly good until I passed the point where most cyclists normally rejoined the road. From that point until the point where the trail ended at the downed bridge, the surface was very bad. I would dog on anyway, for I wanted to see the bridge.
As I was riding along, I passed by some picturesque hidden falls.
When I finally came to the trail's definitive end, where the crossing into Woodstock was interrupted by a fallen trestle, I had no choice but to slog it up the steep hill to regain the road. [There would have been much less of a climb had I left the trail back where most cyclists made the switch].
The road continued along the face of the ridge, atop a cliff overlooking the river, until it descended at the small hamlet of Grafton. At Grafton was the new, modern bridge leading across the river towards Woodstock. The bridge was quite steep, running from the river’s edge at my side to the top of the embankment of the gorge on the other. Even after leaving the bridge proper, the steep climb continued.
When I finally got to the road on the other side, I wondered what had become of the town. I found myself still out in the country and a few kilometers north of town, but on a road which was very busy. I headed towards town a short ways before coming to the top of a steep drop. Should I continue? I wanted to see Woodstock, but I knew that if I went down, I would have to climb all the way back up the hill. After some hesitation, I decided to take the plunge. Soon I had entered the built up section of Woodstock, a quaint, old-style town, but of some serious size. The downtown portion of town was several blocks in length and ended at the waterfront.
When I had reached the top of the bridge, it had been 12:00 and I had stopped to call Sheryl to check in and to tell her where I was. She was still back in Florenceville. I would call her again, as I was leaving Woodstock, to tell her it was a pretty big town and worthy of her exploration.
At 12:30 I was at the Tourist Information Kiosk of Woodstock, where I picked up a town map. Nearby was a small waterfront park with tiny roofed gazebos. I sat down the bench of one of these, next to a girl who was none too happy about my arrival. I apologized for crowding her, but told her I needed the shade in order to eat my lunch comfortably. After a short while, the girl left. I had a lunch of pepperoni, cheese, and grapes.
After lunch, I did some shopping. As I was climbing back up the main street on the way out of town, I dropped into a bookstore, where I looked around and finally bought a book about the history of New Brunswick.
Slowly I climbed my way back up to the top of the ridge and made my way to the top of the bridge. It was certainly a thrill to ride full speed down the steep embankment and sloping bridge, back to the Grafton side.
I was in Grafton again at 13:50. My Woodstock excursion had taken more than two hours out of my day's ride. I set my day's sights on the town of Nackawic, the first major town around the bend of the river. (South of Woodstock, the St. John's River takes a sharp turn to the east.)
At first the road below Grafton continued along as before, right next to the river and at the base of a steep embankment. The width and depth of the river told me that there must be yet another dam up ahead somewhere, for the water was now calm and deep and the river very wide. I had the occasion to catch some great views back towards Woodstock.
There came a point, though, as the river began to curve eastward, that the road left the river's side and took a sharp climb upwards, to eventually run along the crest of the ridge. (I would see later the reason for this. It is quite likely that the former road did run alongside the river, but was submerged by the dam reservoir. I would occasionally see bits and pieces of the former road below.) Though I had turned east, the strong breeze was still behind me, which was a blessing
From high atop the ridge, I had a great view of the Trans-Canada Highway, running alongside the river on the opposite side. Through the trees I could see a massive rest area and Irving truck stop, set on an island. (We would stop there on the way back.)
Sheryl called me about this time, at 15:00. She had now reached Woodstock.
Soon after 15:00, all the potential energy I had built up by climbing up to the top of the ridge was spent in one, steep descent, nearly back to the water level. At 15:13, I crossed over the county line into York County.
I passed by a place where I could see the old road below and a highway bridge partially submerged by the waters backed up from the dam.
I stopped at 15:30 for the sky had become dark and cloudy. It took me ten minutes to change into rain gear mode. I put on my tennis shoes and wrapped my regular shoes in plastic bags. I dug out my rain poncho. I checked that everything, such as cameras and binoculars, was well stowed in plastic bags. I was once again on my way at 15:40, but then it ended up not raining on me after all.
I passed by the Campbell Settlement Road at 16:10. It was one of the few landmarks along an otherwise long and empty stretch.
I came out at Nackawic Bridge Road at 16:50. It was a shock, for the crossroad was wide and busy, whereas the road I had been travelling on was quiet and narrow. This road was the exit from the Trans-Canada for the town of Nackawic and crossed the St. John’s River at the Nackawic Bridge. The “Welcome to Nackawic” at the crossroads highlighted its fame as the home of 'the world's largest axe'.
Before proceeding on into town, I could not resist the temptation of riding down the hill and across the bridge. I rode over the bridge to the far shore, as far as the Trans-Canada overpass, before turning back. It was a steep climb to return to the crossroads, but I was back from my excursion by 17:00.
I followed the main road from the bridge as it became a controlled-access two-laned road and climbed steeply up the hill. I realized later that I could have continued along the smaller road I had been travelling on, which would have brought me through town. I did not have a detailed map at the time, though, and have known promising looking roads to come to dead ends at the base of steep hills. I chose the sure way. The main road climbed up two steep hills as it wound around the outskirts of the town. Soon after beginning my climb, I passed a sign for the motel to which I was headed, announcing it to be 5km ahead.
When at last I reached the top of my long climb. I could see far ahead down the hill, the smokestack of the mill which was Nackawic's main industry. I enjoyed the long, long and fast descent for which I had so dearly just paid. At the bottom of the hill, I came to a bridge. It worried me at first, as I thought I might be crossing over to the other side of the river again. This was not the case. The bridge simply crossed over an inlet.
Just past the bridge was the motel. It looked much more like an apartment building than a motel. It was nestled in just behind a gas station/restaurant complex. Across the inlet could be clearly seen the town's 'axe', in a park marking the main section of town.
I arrived at the motel at 17:30, but found no one there. Even though I had reservations, I began to get nervous. I found a room where the door was open and people were socializing. When I asked about the management, I was told I had to phone them on the pay phone. This seemed strange, but I did so and, about five minutes later, the attendant came from where she lived and checked me in.
Sheryl phoned about 5 minutes after I had completed the checking in formalities. She was at the centre of Nackawic, in front of the big axe, and was trying to locate the motel. I talked her over to my side of the cove. Even then, she drove right by and I had to tell her to turn around.
Sheryl had lot to tell me about her 'off road' experiences of that day: Centreville, a Christian Herb Store out in the boondocks, etc. Over my bike rack stowed in the back seat she has draped freshly picked herbs for drying.
Sheryl’s Day: Beechwood (Wicklow) to Nackawic: 97 miles on the odometer (826-730)
Sheryl relaxed at the motel for a while before heading down the Trans-Canada towards Florenceville. Her first stop was Village Fabrics in Florenceville where she made some purchases. She also checked out the historic 1886 covered bridge in Florenceville. She was still in Florenceville when I called her at 12:00.
She left Florenceville to head west and off-road to the Crown of Glory Christian + Herbal Shop
She had lunch in Jacksontown, New Brunswick
By 15:00 she had reached the town of Woodstock, via the Trans-Canada. She stopped in at an antique shop, at the Salvation Army Store, at the Schoolhouse Tea Room, and at Avery’s Antiques.
She left Woodstock at closing time at drove on to Nackawic via the Trans-Canada. When she called me, she was at the town centre looking at the ‘World's Biggest Axe’
I had Sheryl drive me back into town so that I could check out the 'Big Axe' close up for myself. It was a massive thirty-foot object. The metal part was made out of thick nickel, which made a hard 'thunk' sound when hit, indicating that it was very thick. I was glad not be the New Brunswick taxpayer who had paid for such an object, though I fear some of my federal tax dollars were also at work. Nearby was the town's 'shopping centre', a single, small outside mall consisting of four stores, two of which were a pizzeria and a convenience store.
Having fully explored the ‘town’, we drove back to the restaurant attached to the gas station, where we had supper. I had a bacon double cheese burger and Sheryl had a Caesar salad with chicken. While in the 'truck stop' atmosphere of this restaurant, we talked up some RCMP, who gave us the run-down on the road ahead and on the small town. On their way out, they were drawn to explore at length the back seat of our car, interested no doubt in the herbery drying on the bike rack.
The rain started as we returned to the motel, driving out and around the parking lot. I spent the time in our motel room reading and writing until I fell asleep.
I was up at 06:00 and we hustled to be at the nearby gas-station restaurant for its 7:30 opening. It was an overcast and rainy day.
Our breakfast was done by 8:10 and Sheryl saw me off after a roadside photo. I headed into the rain, down the almost totally deserted road climbing up into the heavily wooded hills and away from the valley of the town of Nackawic. A sign just past the motel indicated that the next town of 'Mactaquac' was 43 km distant and that Fredericton, the day's destination, was 64 km away.
Keswick Valley to Nackawic
(Description of day-drive from Fredericton to Nackawic, from the Fredericton Tourist Guide: Removed from this lite version.)
There would be lots of serious hills that morning. Right out of town, I had to climb the first long, serious hill. I stopped at the crest to get a view back to the smoke rising from Nackawic's mill. Then I dropped just as sharply back to the lake level.
At 10:00 I was standing on the shoreline looking out over the angry lake at the town of Upper Queensbury, known by the sign as the 'Granite H.M.', whatever that means. Although the signs announced the presence of a town at that spot, I had trouble seeing any other evidence of one. A mileage sign there showed Mactaquac to be 16km and Fredericton 45km. I was making very good time, no doubt on account of the very strong wind that was pushing me along. Despite the hills, I had ridden 27km, according to the Mactaquac distance, or 19km, according to the Fredericton distance. (Who knows why they did not match!)
I rode by 'Bear Island' and over three, separate high ridges, dropping to near lake level between each one. It was pouring rain all the way! At one point, I had to change my film in the rain. I found what shelter I could under the 18 inch overhang of a roadside building. While working so hard to shelter my open camera from the rain, I let a drop of sweat from my forehead fall onto the shutter and had a hard time drying it up.
Eventually, I was in the town of 'Lower Queensbury'. Then at 10:50 I crossed the Mactaquac town line. I continued to ride and ride and ride. Was there a town anywhere? I came down a long hill past a big provincial park and campground. I passed a big golf course. Finally, at the end of another long downhill, just before the road headed out onto a causeway, I stopped into a gas station/convenience store to warm myself with a coffee. It was 11:45. I asked where the town of Mactaquac was and the girls laughed, "This is Mactaquac. This is all the 'town' there is."
(Description of Mactaquac, from the Fredericton Tourist Guide: Removed from this lite version.)
While at the store, I called Sheryl from the land line (for there was no cell service.) She had booked a motel in Fredericton from the big Tourist Info Centre out on the Trans-Canada. It was on Highway 105, two or three kilometers past Fredericton.
I rode on down the hill and found myself crossing a wide bay of the lake along a narrow causeway. There was no shelter from the wind out on the open causeway and I felt its full force. Strong waves were being whipped up on the water. The rain still pelted me anytime I turned my face into the wind.
I saw the dam from the causeway and decided to ride across it and explore the other side, even though I knew it was out of my way. I rode over to a park on the far side whence I could get a good, downstream view of the dam. Upriver from the dam stretched a long lake, vanishing off in the distance in a dark haze, its waters being tossed by the wind. Downstream was a steep gorge, but no sign of rapids. It is possible that the tidewater extends right up to the base of the dam.
The Mactaquac dam is the largest hydroelectric generating station in the Maritimes. It opened in 1968 and produces more than 670,000 kilowatts. The dam raises the water level of the Saint John's River by almost 40 metres. It ia a rock-filled structure with a watertight clay core. The reservoir covers a surface of 8.700 hectares and extends approximately 96 kilometres upriver. Several towns, the old provincial highway, and an historic waterfall were submerged as the reservoir filled. (Adapted from the Mactaquac Tourist Map, with additional information)
My return from the far side of the dam was difficult. The strong wind was now in my face and I had to struggle against it and the rain it was driving. There was construction on the dam, narrowing the heavy traffic to one lane, and none of the cars were happy to be following a bicycle. I swung off, briefly, at the dam itself, to get some more photos. Standing out on the dam, I could actually hear the wind howling as it blew through the metal superstructure. Leaving the dam, I still had a long, hard climb to get back to the my original junction point with Highway 105.
And my climb was not over even then, for from the junction, the highway made a long, steep climb over the Keswick Ridge. It's too bad there was no way to ride down along the river. It took me ten hard minutes, to 12:40, to reach the top of the ridge. From that high point, I was able to look far back along the lake upriver. Because the road was wet and slippery, I had to slowly descend the far side while clamping down hard on my wet brakes to get as much stopping power as possible. After the dam junction, traffic on the road had increased many fold and cars were passing me constantly, throwing up more wet spray. It was the exit from the Trans-Canada Highway on the far side of the dam which had brought all the traffic onto the road.
(Description of Keswick, from the Fredericton Tourist Guide: Removed from this lite version.)
I began scouting for a coffee shop where I might get out of the rain for a while. At the foot of the hill, I came to Keswick Landing, where the road made a big, wide curve around a marshy inlet of the river. For a space, I was forced to ride into the wind again, and was very thankful when the road pointed eastward once again. The road crossed a small tributary amidst the flatland, over an old bridge.
There came a junction with a new and trendy, though tiny, shopping centre. The only restaurant was a pizzeria, so I rolled on. The road climbed up a bit, to follow a ledge, midway up the ridge overlooking the St. John River. The river was now meandering below through a broad valley filled with islands and marshes. I rode on into the town of Douglas.
I stopped at a convenience store at 13:00, to dry off a bit and to use the facilities. Alas, they had no coffee ready, and did not want to make a fresh pot for me, so I left.
I finally came to a nice restaurant ten minutes later, where I made a 20-minute stop to enjoy some hot soup and coffee. It felt great to dry off a bit, and the soup warmed my insides.
I as on my way once again at 13:30. The road continued on along the ledge overlooking the river, as before. I came to the Fredericton city limits at 14:40. Bits of the New Brunswick Trail opened up alongside the highway, but the roadbed was not in rideable condition. I stayed on the road.
I had studied the Fredericton town map while in the restaurant and knew that I had to leave Highway 105 at Sunset Street. At the entrance to town, Highway 105 would swung north, outside of town, and had become a freeway. Sunset Street would take me across a slice of suburbia, to meet Main Street, which would become Union Street. Union Street would bring me across the northern bank of the town. The main part of Fredericton was on the opposite shore. The portion on the north side of the St. John River was only a forgotten, backwater section of the city.
As I rode through town, I noticed some antique stores which I was sure Sheryl would want to visit. (It would turn out she did visit them, and I would be back myself to visit them the next day.) I came to an Irving gas station/convenience store where they had a cash machine, so I stopped for some cash. I took a detour to the waterfront, right across from the main part of town, to get some photos. Finally, I came to an old railway bridge which had been turned into a pedestrian/ bicycle crossing. I decided to ride across and check out Fredericton a bit.
I had no sooner made it across when it was 15:00 and time to call Sheryl. She was right behind me and expected to be at the motel soon. “Let's meet at the motel” she suggested. so I gave up my idea of exploring on my own and turned the bike around to re-cross the bridge.
I continued, then, out along Union Street. I was just past the bridge where the highway crossed over the St. John’s River, near the Junction with Highway 2, when Sheryl came up behind me, honking. She passed me and went on ahead to the motel.
I got to the Norfolk Motel at 15:30. Sheryl had just finished checking in. She surprised me with the gift of a new pair of bicycle shorts and a new jersey, which she had picked up as she was driving through town.
Sheryl’s Day: Nackawic to Fredericton: 79 miles on the odometer (903-826)
Sheryl left the motel after a while, got some gas at the Shell station, and then headed back across the river to the Trans-Canada highway. Along the way in, she stopped at the Tourist Information Centre, where she booked a motel for us in Fredericton and got information on antique stores and used bookstores that she would want to check out. She had already left the Centre by the time I called her at 12:00, and was able to tell me where we would be staying.
She then drove on into Fredericton’s north shore. It is quite likely that she got there before I did, and I may well have ridden right past her, for she did a lot of shopping between 12:00 and 15:00.
I changed into my street clothes and then unloaded and unpacked all my bicycle sacks, so that things would dry out from the wet day. We decided we would spend two days in Fredericton, in order to have a chance to look around together, so I went back to the motel office and paid for another day.
We then headed out by car to explore the town. We drove back in along Union/Main to a used book store that Sheryl had seen and we hung out there until they closed at 17:00. Then we drove across the bridge into the downtown section and did a walkabout through the old section of town (where we had briefly stopped in 1998). We looked for the restaurant we where we had eaten in 1998, but could not find it, so we ended up at Moe's for supper. After supper we drove back over to the North Side and stopped at the Tim Horton's drive-thru for some coffee, which we took back to the room to drink. It was 21:00 when we returned to our room. Sheryl read for a while, and then fell asleep. I read, wrote in my journal, and watched some TV. Only around 23:30 did I finally retire.
This was to be a day for Sheryl and I to explore together, driving-around by car rather than riding a bicycle. We awoke later than usual for cycling days, at 07:30, and after getting ourselves together, drove towards town on the highway, to have breakfast at the restaurant of the Fort. Nashwaak Motel, a place that had been recommended to us. Breakfast was okay, though the place was quite busy.
After breakfast, we continued our way westward along Union and into town, to visit the places Sheryl had scoped out the evening before during her drive-through town. I let Sheryl shop while I went across the road to a riverside park and hiked down to the water. When I returned, she was still shopping and buying, so I sat down to write.
I next dropped Sheryl off further along the street, while I continued up the road to the Six Sisters Antiques, the place I had noticed while riding into town. Sheryl had already visited this antique store the day before. I found some postcards and some maps. I then returned to where Sheryl was still shopping. While waiting, I found some books to buy. Sheryl ended up buying a whole lot of clothes. It was near 12:00 when we were done.
We drove over the bridge to the main part of Fredericton, and headed towards the west end of town, where the tourist guide listed two antique stores. I immediately recognized one of these as an ended up being an antique store at which we had stopped briefly during our 1998 foray into town. The first antique store was a bust: We found nothing. At the second, Sheryl hit the jackpot and several of the pieces she likes to collect.
Having exhausted the antique stores on our list, we headed downtown. Parking on the street was totally free, thanks to a 'free parking' pass Sheryl had picked up at the Tourist Info Centre out on the highway. It allowed tourists to ignore the parking meters. What a great idea! We began our walkabout with lunch out on the terrace of Bugaboo Creek Pub, from 14:30 to 15:30.
Our walk on towards the center of town brought us past the Old Armoury, where they had a whole series of trendy craft and herb shops which enraptured Sheryl. She got caught up having a long discussion with a would-be Indian shaman in the back of one of the stores. I took advantage of the time to walk down to the riverfront to explore. Then I caught a live show between 16:30 and 17:00, where two girls and six boys in period costumes regaled us with stories and songs. Sheryl joined me to catch the tail end of this show.
History of Fredericton &
The Soldiers' Barracks
(From the Fredericton Tourist Booklet, 2000: removed from this lite version.)
We walked on down across downtown to Owl Books, where we had spent time during our 1998 visit. It was one of the few stores open past 17:00. We stayed until closing time at 19:00 and bought ourselves quite a load of used books.
Outdoors and across the street from the bookstore, in front of City Hall, Outdoor stalls set up and were still open. The area was thick with tourists. We joined the throng, exploring the various booths. Sheryl had more stamina than I. I finally had to take a sit down.
In the City Hall parking lot just behind, we happened on an impromptu old car gathering. We spent some time looking at the vintage 1950s and 1960s cars (with one from 1932) and listening to their owners talk up their cars.
It was near dusk as we walked east along the main street, to a park where we sat with the crowd and caught a few numbers by a local Flamenco group. (Actually, the group was from St. John and we would hear more about them in a few days.).
We had dinner at the nearby Snooty Fox Pub, steak and kidney pie, and ended off our evening with coffee take-out from the familiar Tim Horton's near our motel. This time I made sure the coffees were hot!
I was up bright and early at 06:00 and anxious to be out on my bike again. While Sheryl was getting ready, I was busy re-packing all my, now dried-out, gear. Once I was done, we drove back over to the Nashwaak Motel for breakfast once again and then returned to the room where Sheryl took a photo of me in my new bicycle outfit. I was on my was at 08:30.
I rode back in along Union, past the Hwy 2 interchange, past the river bridge, and past the Nackwaak Motel, to the old railway bridge. As I had done two days earlier, I set out across this pedestrian crossing for Fredericton's main shore. I took a pause before setting out, to explore the info centre for the New Brunswick Trail, located just at the north entrance to the bridge.
Once across the bridge, I reached once again the church which marked the furthest extent of my earlier ride. My way lay east along the river, along Highway 102. It was 08:45
Before setting out, however, I wanted to climb up to Prospect Street, in Fredericton's Upper Town, to get a picture of the restaurant where I had eaten with my father on our last trip together in 1990. It was a long, hard climb up Regent Street from the river's edge, to the crest of the ridge. It took me until 9:05, over twenty minutes, to make the climb. I was rewarded, however, by good, morning light in which to snap a photo of the City Motel at Prospect & Regent, where my dad and I had stopped for lunch. The deep sea motif, so brilliant in 1990, was already quite faded by 2002. Prospect Street clearly represented the newer, suburban strip-mall section of town.
On the way up the hill, I had encountered the francophone side of Fredericton, as I passed the Caisse populaire de Fredericton, l'École St. Anne, and Le Centre communautaire de Ste. Anne. I also saw the Fredericton Islamic Centre and a synagogue.
Once I had my photo, I turned directly around and rode back down. The ride down was a live thrill and within 5 minutes I was back at my starting point, the clock now reading 09:15.
I set out eastward alongside the river on Highway 102. At first I was riding along a tree-lined city boulevard whose inland side was lined with fine houses. This scenery slowly gave way to trees as I rode beneath the massive bridge where Highway 2 freeway, crossed the St. John's River. Soon I was even with where our motel would be on the far side. Past the bridge, the road I was on climbed up out of the valley and to run along the crest of the ridge. I had a few more brief glimpses of the river before the road turned away to head inland.
Oromocto to Gagetown to Cambridge Narrows
(Descripton of a day-drive from Fredericton, from the Fredericton Tourist Brochure: removed from this lite version.)
At 10:00, I came down off the hill into the town of Lincoln, where I saw the most uncanny sight: a row of rural-type mail boxes stuck into the city sidewalk. Thereafter, the road swung by the Fredericton airport. I passed the entrance to the terminal and then a field where many old-fashioned planes were arrayed.
I came next to the Oromocto town line and the road dipped down to cross the Oromocto River. As I was crossing, I saw an interesting looking railroad trestle upriver. As the road climbed back up out of the river valley and passed over the former rail line, I noticed that the right-of-way had been converted to a bicycle trail. I decided to take some time to explore the trail and to ride back upon it as far as the railway trestle. Just beyond the overpass was a new housing subdivision to the left. I turned left and rode down through the suburban streets until I found access to the trail. The ride back to the trestle was a mile or so west, though the marshes of the riverside. The trail's roadbed was in pretty bad shape. From the centre of the trestle, I could now see the highway bridge. Looking along the river's sandy edge, I could see ample evidence of tidewater. My exploration of the river lasted from 10:25 to 10:40.
Once I had gotten back on the main road, it was not long before I came to the beginning of the built-up section of Oromocto. At this point, Highway 102 curved to the left, circling around a big city park and then climbing up a long hill. Directly ahead was a smaller, commercial street. At the very corner was Oromocto’s Tourist Information Centre. I stopped in and asked the girl in attendance if there were any way to avoid climbing the big hill. She directed me to continue along the smaller street, Restigouche, as far as Restigouche North, and then to take this back down to Highway 102. In this way, she told me, I could avoid the hill. She also pointed out the existence of the museum at the Gagetown Military Base, there in Oromocto.
As I followed her directions, I noticed a lot of stores along Restigouche that I was sure Sheryl would like to visit. I dropped down to regain Highway 102 without incident and soon I had ridden through most of the town and was on the way out. I came to the road that would bring me up to the main entrance of the military base and decided, on a whim, to make a detour to visit the military museum. The road into the base the road was lined with old military vehicles:
#1: Centurion Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV): Since 1944
#2: Ferret Scout Car (MKI): 2 x 30 calibre machine guns, 55mph forward or reverse. 1954-1978
#3: Lynx M-113 Reconnaissance Vehicle: 1978-1994
#4: Centurion MK5 Main Battle Tank: Crew 4, 20-pounder gun, 2 x 762mm machine guns, 21 mph, 56 tons, 1951-1978
I found the museum and did a quick walk-through, finishing at 11:50. The museum was only moderately interesting, and I was pressed to be on my way. If I am ever in the area when I am more relaxed, I could come back to explore it more fully.. Besides, I wanted to be back outside in the sunshine.
I rode back on out of the military base and resumed my way east on Highway 102 east. When I got to the edge of town, where Town Road joins the highway, I reconsidered. It was lunch time and the tourist map showed a large park by the waterfront at the centre of town. There was no guarantee that a suitable eating place would lie further down the road, so I rode back up into town along Town Road.
Oromocto: Canada's Model Town!
(Description taken from Oromocto Tourist Brochure: removed from this lite version.)
Marina Park was a nice park, located behind the town’s new, modern shopping centre and overlooking a narrow channel of the river. Besides the river and the marina, other visually interesting objects included old bridge piers from some former structure and lots of old rail cars on remnants of track. I found myself a nice, shady picnic table with a good view of the water. Since it was 12:00, I called Sheryl to check in. By chance, she too was in Oromocto, at the first used clothing store along Restigouche. “Should we meet for lunch?” she asked. Why not? After a few minutes, when she did not show up, I had to call her again. She was stuck at MacDonald’s getting lunch. I had her get me a big soft drink, was well.
She drove down a few minutes later, after stopping at MacDonald's and we had lunch together. I had cream cheese and crackers with grapes and a cold soda.
I set out on my way at 13:00, with 40 km yet to go before I reached Gagetown, the day’s destination. (I had phoned earlier to make reservations at a B&B). Sheryl returned to her fripperie explorations.
Just west of Oromocto I passed through the tiniest of Indian reservation, barely a few blocks long. Then the road wound its way alongside the military base, the landward side of the highway fenced off with dangerous looking fencing. I passed an area where marines on the base were training with helicopters and there was lots of noise and activity.
By 13:40, I had reached Burton Centre, where I was high on a ridge looking down the farmed slopes towards the dark blue waters of the St. John's River. The slopes were lined with old, established orchards. There, out in the middle of nowhere, was this starkly modern courthouse building, built on a high hill. A modern bridge crossed over the river to reach Highway 105 of the far side. I rode up onto the hill behind the courthouse to get a good photo of the bridge.
At 13:55, I came upon a point where the road took a sharp and abrupt curve to the south. At the curve was an uncharacteristic stand of tall, majestic pine trees, dwarfing all that was around. The little settlement under the pines was only a few blocks long and consisted of little more than a few old houses and an old church.
There came a stretch of road ten minutes later, at 14:05, where Highway 102 ran right alongside Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 2) freeway.
At 14:30, as I was crossing Swan Creek, I noticed out of the corner of my eye an old railway trestle to my left. I decided to stop and explore it. The old railway right-of-way was intended to be part of the new New Brunswick Trail, but there was not much evidence of this yet. I found my way to the trail through a clearing in the trees and rode back along the rough gravel to the bridge. The only roadbed over the trestle were the original 12' x 18' timbers, through which one could clearly see the water, and in which the holes of the old railway ties were still quite prominent. A big warning sign warned people away from the bridge, but I crossed anyway.
Having returned to the road and continued eastward, I crossed the Queen's County line and came to the town of Upper Gagetown at 14:45. There was soon a turn off for ‘Upper Gagetown Road’, while the main highway curved away inland. It seemed a good guess that this smaller road would take me into the town while the highway went around it. I figured that 'Upper Gagetown' would lead right into Gagetown proper. I had only the provincial map at this point, which showed no detail, such as the road on which I was embarking. This was to prove a mistake.
On I rode past the farms, and still keeping my place high on the ridge above the water. Although the roadbed turned to gravel, there seemed to be sufficient traffic coming in the opposite direction to testify to the viability of my route.
At 15:00 I came to a crossing over the Trans-Canada freeway, where it leapt over the St. John's River in a brand new double span. I called Sheryl, who was at a clothing store along Highway 102, just outside Oromocto (after having done two other clothing stores in Oromocto itself).
As I continued on, the road began descending a long hill, dropping from the crest of the ridge down to the water's edge. Then, all of a sudden, it came to a dead end at some farmer's driveway.
I would soon learn that a huge marsh and lake, a vast bay of the St. John's River, separated ‘Upper’ Gagetown from Gagetown proper. The 'upper' referred to the sailing days definition of 'upriver'. There had, at one time, been a bridge across the mouth of the inlet, but that had been many, many years earlier, in the younger days of the highways. Of course, I did not know all of this yet. I only knew that I had no option but to turn back.
I backtracked, climbing back up the hill and crossing once more over the Trans-Canada freeway, until I came to a road heading inland which looked promising. I figured there was no need to ride all the way back to the original junction! On faith, I headed up this road, which also had only a gravel roadbed, as it climbed straight up the side of the ridge. My faith was rewarded a few minutes later when the road came out at Highway 102 at 15:20. I had lost 25 minutes (14:55-15:20) in my little dead-end jaunt. A good map could easily have avoided the whole affair!S
oon I crossed once more over the Highway Two (Trans-Canada) freeway and began climbing up and around the huge crater-like marsh and lake. I came to the Gagetown line at 15:40 and to the entrance to Gagetown proper at 16:00. The highway passed by the town while high on the ridge, but the town itself was clustered down along the waterfront. I dropped down and down the access road before turning the corner onto the short, but very picturesque and quaint main street of town.
(Descriptions taken from the town's brochure and from the Fredericton Tourist Brochure: removed from this lite version.)
I stopped in at the convenience store by the town wharf and had a well-earned iced cream. I also noticed the store was an official NB liquor outlet and stored this information for further use. I walked out and explored the town wharf, taking pictures both upstream and downstream. Gagetown was a very old town, built along a short channel that was cut off from the main river by a low island. It had been a busy and important port back in steamboat days.
I spent a few minutes, until 1645, walking up and down and the three blocks of the town's main commercial street. After all, I had reservations at the B&B, and so there was no hurry. Finally, I found my way to the Steamer's Stop Inn, a rustic B&B built in a magnificent old waterfront inn. At first I could find no one there. The innkeeper was next door, across the field, in a small impromptu bookstore run by her husband, in the basement of some kind of wooden tower. She told me to hold on a few minutes and then she would walk over with me. She had not expected guests so early in the afternoon. Soon, I was checked into room #4, the Victoria Room, a second-floor room overlooking the river. It was a truly fine view.
[Indeed, I would have to rate this Inn as one of the most outstanding B&B's I have stayed at. There was a small private 'pub' that night. The next morning we would have breakfast out on the screen-in terrace, overlooking the fog-filled channel. Everyone was very talkative and very friendly.]
I rode back up to the local bar I had seen along the main street. The bar had a small outdoor terrace where I could sit and wait for Sheryl. Some of the locals who were out there were very interested in my ride experiences, and I loved to talk about them. I called Sheryl from the phone booth across the street to let her know where I was, but she was still shopping. It was 17:00 when I sat down
After about an hour, and a couple of beers, I rode back to the motel. As the innkeeper had suggested, I stowed my bike underneath the rear terrace, removing the valuables and locking it to a pillar. I had just gotten up to the room and was stowing my things when Sheryl arrived.
Sheryl’s Day: Fredericton to Gagetown: 58 miles on the odometer (987-929)
Sheryl leisurely gathered her things together at the motel before setting out for Oromocto, where she went into the same Tourist Information Centre I had visited and got the ‘low-down’ on the local herbal stores, antique stores and fripperies. She was the first used clothing store on Restigouche Street when I called her at 12:00. We agreed to meet for lunch down by the river, and she stopped off at MacDonald’s to get a hamburger. After I set off at 13:00, she returned to her shopping. She was still shopping at 15:00, now along the highway out of Oromocto, when I called her at 15:00 and again at 17:00. She arrived at the Inn at 18:00
We took a walk together, back along the town's three-block wooden sidewalk, to the restaurant suggested by our hosts. It was right next to the tavern where I had consumed my beers earlier. The restaurant was a fish & chips place and was, I'm afraid to say, only so-so. We discovered it was owned by the relative of the innkeeper, hence the recommendation.
After supper we took a long, leisurely walk around the out blocks of the town, returning eventually to the convenience store just before it closed. I bought some ice for my mini-cooler and some wine.
When we got back to the inn, we were invited out on the back terrace for the 'mini pub' that they run on weekend nights. The ‘mini-pub’ was only open from 19:00 to 23:00. We sat out on the back, screened-in terrace, watching dusk descend upon the river and the bats flittering about. Sheryl had a mint tea and I had a pint of the local dark ale, which was very good. We talked up the waitress, who was the daughter of the innkeeper and the former owner of the Beaumus Coffee House, one of the trendy places on the town's 'strip'. She gave Sheryl many leads for her next day's herbal explorations.
We retired to out room at 23:00 when the pub closed. With the lights were out, the room was pitch black, and all was dead quiet. It really reminded me of country nights in my youth.
We were out of bed at 07:00. While Sheryl was getting ready to come downstairs, I packed everything up and loaded my bike. The internal frame for my panier was broken and I made a note that it was something I would have to fix.
We had breakfast on the back terrace at 08:00, overlooking the calm morning water of the boat channel. We were served the most wonderful blueberry and banana pancakes. After eating, I hiked out onto the pier to look back and get a vantage point for a photo of the Inn. Then I was set to be on my way.
It was 08:45 when I headed out. The first task was to climb back up the steep ridge, from the waterfront to Highway 102. I was at the top and ready to head on down the highway by 09:00. The day was sunny, with a hint of clouds on the western horizon. The air was so quiet and still that the sound of the birds was loud.
Not too far along the main road, I came to a mileage sign indicating that St. John was 89 km away. Near there, the waitress from the pub who had spoken with us the night before came cycling up in the opposite direction, from her farm outside of town. She greeted me with an 'hello' and a 'good luck" as she passed.
By 09:35, I had reached the town of Pleasant Villa, where I encountered a long climb followed by a steep descent, back into the valley of the St. John's River. The sky had become overcast, but all remained dead quiet. There was almost no traffic out on the road.
At 09:50 I stopped at a roadside rest area located on the Queenston town line. The stop was high on the hillside and I had a great vantage point out over the valley for photos.
10:00 found me at the Central Hampstead line. I had passed 'Queenston Wharf Road' and 'Hampstead Siding Road', respective signs of earlier steamboat and railroad days. There was a big bend in the river at Hampstead and I saw a floating barge far down the hill and out on the water. Looking past the barge, I could see where the valley narrowed into a tight gorge. I came upon an historic well
This trough was made from Spoon Island granite hollowed out by Andrew Hamilton 1796-1882. In the mid 1800s used as a water trough gravity fed from a spring thorugh a hand-bored wooden pipe located on his 200 acre homestead at Hamiltons Mt.
Farm was sold to his son Erwin in 1879.
Army took over in mid 1950s
Trought was moved to Arm Hdqts where it remained for 48 years
And is not being put to its original use.
As I rounded the sharp inside bend of the river, coming along the foot of a high ridge, I looked out across the marshland towards the distant water and noted the old abandoned railway trestles at each creek crossing, more signs of earlier days.
At 10:45, when I came to the Hampstead town line, I took a detour off the main road to drop down to the water's edge so I could get a look back at the barge. I was on the wharf of the Hampstead-Wickham ferry from 10:50 to 11:00.
At 11:10 I crossed the line into King's County.
At 11:20 I had reached the Evandale ferry, where Highway 124 crossed the river. Both the river and valley had narrowed to the extreme at that point and the roadway was running along the side of the ridge, with a tall cliff to my right.
A little past Evandale, at 11:32, I underwent a dog attack. Typically, dogs pose little problem, for by the time they notice me I have ridden past. In this case, the two German shepherds who were without a leash saw me coming and came out ahead of me, running at full speed towards me as they growled and barked. I rode down on them, seriously considering whether I should aim to hit one directly, so as to put it out of action, and then take on the other one. I was that scared, and the play seemed cast as we approached. At the last minute, I did not hit the dog. The two had so misjudged my speed that they ran right past me. By the time they could turn around, I was out of their range and they could not catch up. I was quite spooked, nevertheless. Had I hit the dog, I’m sure to have killed it and would have faced legal charges, fines and a lot of other grief. The owner should have had his dogs on a leash. I was at the civic address of 6024.
The river, which had turned west from its southerly path near Gagetown, only to turn south again at Hampstead, now made a definite curve to the west once again. I was entering a section called ‘The Long Reach'. The road led along the base of the cliff rising to my right, just above the water level. Just above the roadway, on a slightly higher ledge, was the old railway right-of-way, which I guess will eventually become part of The New Brunswick Trail.
I stopped between 12:00 and 12:15 at the dock of 'Oak Point Pier', to have a look up and down ‘The Reach'. I could see along the shoreline the clear effect of the distant ocean tides. They seemed to affect about 3 feet of the beach.
I called Sheryl for my 12:00 check in. She was still back at the inn, relaxing on the terrace and preparing her oils, as well as talking up the innkeeper and her daughter. She had been waiting for my call and now would leave to begin her day's exploration.
Returning to the highway, I passed an old cemetery, whose information plaque indicated that Oak Point must have once been a thriving community:
Oak Point Baptist Cemetery
Former Site of the Oak Point Baptist Church
only what is done for Christ will last
This memorial was erected in 1989 by the Congretation of the Oak Point Baptist Church
Leaving Oak Point, I faced the long, hard climb up to the top of a high ridge that blocked the landward descent of ‘The Reach’. The river made a wide detour to pass around the point at the end of the ridge. At the top of a big ridge was the town of Brown’s Point. The hard-won climb was followed immediately by a steep descent and then yet another long climb, before the road finally descended once again to the river's edge.
Between 13:35 and 13:50, and once again onto the flat alongside the river, I stopped to have lunch at the town pier of a place whose name was 'Public Landing' I talked up two young girls who were Mormon missionaries, one from Utah and the other from England. The girls did not look the part of the typical Mormon missionary, as they sunned themselves in their bikinis. After chatting with them for a short while, I retired to the far side of the pier to escape the crowd of young gentlemen who were clustered around fawning over the girls.
Going on down the road, I stopped to catch a photo of St. Peter's Anglican Church, built in 1796.
I was at Morrisdale by 14:05
At 14:20 I was at Westfield, at the junction of Highway 177 and where ‘The Long Reach’ ends as the river makes yet another abrupt turn to the south. The junction had been preceded by a long downhill run during which I had missed a great photo of the bay and bridge for not wanting to interrupt my descent. The bay was a in truth a vast tidal marsh and the bridge formed only part of the causeway across its mouth.
Along Highway 177 ran the active tracks of the CP main line. It must have been along these very tracks that I had ridden in 1993, when I awoke just as we were passing over the Reversing Falls Bridge at St. John.
I stopped to get a photo of St. James Anglican Church in Westfield.
From 14:40 to 14:45, I stopped and made a short detour to watch the Harding Point ferry come in.
At 15:00 I tried to reach Sheryl on the cell phone, but could not. I left my phone on after that, so she would be able to reach me.
Grand Bay/Westfield is a riverside bedroom community for St. John. As I rode along Highway 177, the surroundings became more and more suburban in nature.. The road itself was getting busier and wider, with more and more roadside businesses and parking lots. I came at last to the town's tourist information kiosk, in an old railway caboose, where I stopped for five minutes. I was, thankfully, able to secure a more detailed local map.
I knew from the map that Highway 177, already a wide, four-laned urban boulevard, would soon join the freeway in a vast cloverleaf interchange up ahead. I was climbing a steep hill approaching the interchange at 15:15, when I passed a sign indicating I was now at the city limits of St. John. It was an illusion, for I was still a long way from the city.
The detailed local map showed that I could turn off the main highway at Westfield Road and stay alongside the bay on a more or less quiet road through the country. I was looking for this turn-off when my cell phone began to ring. Three times it rang, and there was no one at the other end when I answered. This phenomenon would continue several times before Sheryl would finally reach me.
Westfield road consisted of many twists and turns together with ups and downs. I was ever conscious of the companion CP tracks, which I kept encountering. At 15:45, I came to Grand Bay and the St. John Marina. This was the first open view of the water I had come across, so I left the road to descend to the end of the pier for a photo. Sheryl finally reached me as I was standing out at the end of the pier looking across the bay at what I could see of St. John. She had just reached the junction of Highway 177 and would be coming along shortly. I expected her to get to the motel where I had made reservations long before I did.
Even after passing the St. John Marina, I was still a lot further away from the city than I thought. I would encounter lots and lots of hills as I continued around the bay, always alongside the railroad line.
At 16:15, I reached Manawaganish Boulevard, which ran along the top of the steep and narrow ridge separating Grand Bay from the ocean. It had been a long, long climb up the back side of that ridge. I was so happy to see the ocean stretched out far below me. It was the sign that I had reached my goal! I gave myself a few minutes to maneuver into the right position for a good panoramic photo of the ocean view. Then I set off in the direction of my motel.
The Balmoral Motel was only a short ways down Manawaganish Boulevard. I reached it at 16:30, thus bringing to a definitive end the bicycle portion of the trip. I had come a long way, after 11 days of cycling, and felt quite a sense of accomplishment. I checked in, and after examining a number of cabins, picked cabin #9. The Balmoral Motel was not the fanciest motel I had ever stayed in, but it was okay for our purposes.
Sheryl came by fifteen minutes later, at 16:45, after I had negotiated the better of two poor cabins: Each had a distinct musty smell, but I chose the larger one, one which had a nice, covered porch upon which to sit and watch the world.
Sheryl’s Day: Gagetown to St. John: 64 miles on the odometer (1052-987)
Sheryl spent the morning at the Steamer Stop Inn, relaxing on the terrace and preparing her oils as she talked up the innkeeper and her daughter. She made a preparation of 8 jars of St. John’s Wort in olive oil. She waited for my 12:00 call before setting off on her afternoon’s explorations. She spent most of her time exploring all the shops and galleries around Gagetown before following me down the highway. She reached the Highway 177 interchange at 15:45, as I as looking out on Grand Bay, but then she followed the road into the freeway, where she stopped at the Tourist Information Centre to gather information on St. John. It was for this reason that she did not arrive until 16:45.
We sat out on the terrace of the small cabin until 18:00, relaxing and toasting the ride with some wine. Then we showered and we were back out on the terrace for 18:45, ready for our first evening in St. John.
We drove into town along Manawaganish Boulevard, stopped for our first look at the Reversing Falls. At this point in time, the tide was going out. All the tidewater pent up in the Long Reach and Grand Bay had to exit via a narrow hundred foot gorge. It was a spectacular sight!
The Reversing Falls
(Description from St. John Tourist Brochure removed for this lite version.)
We continued our drive and found our way into the old part of St. John, which is perched on a tiny, rocky peninsula the rises steeply from the water on all sides. We drove in along the waterfront and parked south of the main commercial area. From there we walked back down to the Atlantic Market. A big affair called The 'Atlantic Music Festival' was in progress,and there was a big tent set up along Water Street. As we passed, we had occasion to hear a bit of the band: Big Sea. We found a place for supper at a trendy restaurant in the Atlantic Market complex, Keystone Kelly, where we had these chicken/mushroom/cheese concoctions that were not very good. The restaurant was spread over many confusing half levels and was jam packed with clients. Outside local music acts and buskers performed on the quai. Following supper we took another leisurely walk along Water Street, catching some more of the 'Big Sea' sound. Then we hiked up the hill one block, to Prince William Street, where we had parked the car.
We drove back to the motel for 21:00, where we relaxed and read until midnight.
We awoke at 08:00 and I quickly dressed to go out to fetch some of the free 'continental breakfast' that was offered by the motel: Muffins, toast and coffee. I brought these back to the cabin, we sat inside at the small kitchen table and enjoyed them. We got ourselves ready slowly. I had to unpack and repack all the bike gear, stowing it in the suitcases for the trip home and bringing out all of my street clothes.
It was not until 11:00 when we got on our way. Sheryl’s stop at the Tourist Information Office the day before had armed her with a comprehensive list of places she wanted to check out.
Our first destination of the day was to be the Irving Nature Park, an entire local peninsula and marsh left in its natural state. We would spend from 11:00 until 14:30 there. Around the motel it had been foggy. It remained foggy as we descended the hill and found our way along the back streets to the nature park. Fog enveloped the beach where we stopped on the causeway leading out to the peninsula. We spent some time at the beach, taking a walk together. Just on our approach to the beach area, Sheryl had noticed lots of wild rose bushes in full bloom and wanted to return to get rose petals.
We proceeded to drive around the park peninsula, making a number of stops. We soon came into a sunny portion, though we could see the fog still hanging back over the inner bay and the city. We had some climbs out on the rocks. We stopped at a rocky cove. We took a walk out on the marsh boardwalk at the high tide. We came to a big bar-b-q stop where we were high above the water and could see the fog bank clearly. Finally, completely around the peninsula, we stopped at the sunny side of the causeway beach. The far end of the causeway was still deep in fog.
At 14:30 we drove back into town, from the sunshine back into the dense fog. We made a second stop at the Reversing Falls. It was now 15:00 and the 'falls' were going in the opposite direction, with the massive tidal surge heading inland through the gap.
My curiosity piqued, it was time to respond to Sheryl’s. We drove out to the other end of Manawaganish Boulevard, past our motel, to an Antique auction, which we checked out from 15:20 to 16:00. I was bored after a few minutes and so left Sheryl to explore while I hiked over to the edge of the cliff, to get a great encompassing photo shot of the Irving Park peninsula below.
We retraced our route of the evening before, back into the old part of town, still deep in fog, and parked at Union & Charlotte. We checked out some used bookstores. Most were closed (for good). It was a depressed area. One store was open, so we browsed for a bit, but did not find anything. We stopped in at another and found a few books. Finally, we ate lunch at Subways.
We took a walking tour to explore the Old Town's most interesting architecture. We walked south along Geramin Street (the street below the market, which was closed on Sundays) and then back along Canturbury Street. Sheryl was most surprised to find an old synagogue nestled in amongst the churches near the corner of Sewell and Rock Streets. We were back at the car by 18:00.
Sheryl was not done at the beach. She wanted to pick some wild roses from outside the park, so we drove back over and I hiked down to the beach, now beset by both fog and dusk, while Sheryl picked. We were both happy. It was now low tide and the whole beach had an eerie look about it. From the water's edge, it was impossible to see the car through the thick fog.
We drove, then, back into town once more. We had decided to have dinner at a seafood place on Water Street, right across from the music tent of the Atlantic Festival. We got there at 19:00, but had to squeeze into the one remaining table outside, and then wait a long time for service. We had a great meal of steamers, lobster bisque, lobster, clams & mussels and wine, all the while listening to the 'Men of the Deeps' in concert. The city was still wrapped in fog and everything was damp. Electric heaters had been set up outside to keep us warm.
On the way back to the motel, we stopped at Tim Horton's to get a caffeine night cap.
As I had explored the tourist brochures Sheryl had picked up, Saint-Andrews-by-the-Sea, barely an hour’s drive from St. John, seemed interesting, so I had made reservations there for two day. It was only an hour's drive from St. John. The plan was to spend the morning in St. John, where many of the interesting stores had been closed the day before, and then to drive on down to St. Andrews.
We got up at 08:00 and had our usual continental breakfast. It took us until 10:30 to get ready, as the whole car had to be re-packed in order to stow all the bike stuff.
First we indulged my curiosity and drove to Fort Howe, on the hill overlooking the harbour by which we had passed so many times. Though the hill was visibly prominent, it took us a while to find the correct road approach. I took my time exploring 360 degrees around with my field glasses and reading all the information plaques, while Sheryl examined the foliage. There was a big cruise ship in harbour: The Carnivale Triumph.
Late in 1777 Major Gilfred Studholme hurriedly fortified this ridge overlooking the mouth of the Saint John River. Throughout the remainder of the American Revolutionary War the presence of Fort Howe, its guns and garrison, guarded the settlement at the river's mouth from attack by American privateers, a minority of disaffected settlers, and the local Indians with whom treaty was made here in 1778. Allowed to decay after 1783, the fort was once more manned and armed during the War of 1812. The garrison was withdrawn in 1821, but the property remained a military reserve until 1914.
Indian Treaty of 1778
Following the Franco-American alliance of February 1778, the Britich colonial officials were concerned about the loyalty of the Malecite of the St. John River and the Micmac of Nova Scotia. As a result of negotiations among the Honourable Michael Francklin, representing the Crown, Abbé Joseph-Mathurin Bourg, resident missionary to the Indians, and Pierre Thomas, Supreme Sachem of the St. John tribe, a treaty of peace and friendship was concluded at Fort Howe on 24 September, 1778. The treaty did much to ensure the loyalty of the Indians despite continued American overtures during the Revolutionary War.
Major Gilfred Studholme c1740 - 1792
Born in Ireland, Studholme arrived in Halifax in 1757 and served with the British Army in Nova Scotia until his retirement in 1774. In 1776 he was recalled to service to help quell the Eddy Rebellion in Chignecto. In 1777 he built Fort Howe at the mouth of the St. John River and successfully defended the district against American raiders. He played an important part in negotiating a treaty with the Malecite and Micmac that effectively ended the threat of an Indian war on the frontiers of Nova Scotia. Subsequently as a Crown Agent he fostered Loyalist settleent in the St. John Valley. He died in New Brunswick.
When we drove on into town, we found parking to be a bit more of a problem than it had been during the weekend. Our goal was to check out those second-hand bookstores and antique stores that were only open during the week. We checked out the Public Market, now open. We checked out a store called 'Loyalist Coins & Books' and made a great haul. We were carefully following the tourist map and seeking out each establishment. It was a long walk over to the 'Scholar's Den', only to find that the owner had introduced a $1 'browser's fee'. We decided on principle not to go in. We retraced our steps to the Public Market, where we had lunch. I had a 'whale of a salad', with all the items, and Sheryl had Thai noodles.
Since Sheryl was pretty tired from all the walking, and the car was many, many blocks away, I left her to sit at the outside cafe while I hiked over to fetch the car. Along the way, I was able to snap photos of a couple of picturesque buildings, now well lit in the sunlight as opposed to the dark fog of the day before.
King's Square & Queen Square
(Description from St. John's Tourist Brochure removed from this lite version.)
I came back by with the car and picked up Sheryl. We drove down and around the peninsula and out the east side for a ways, just to see what was there. The town extended far to the east, through a valley and alongside the railroad tracks. At length, I had gone far enough. I topped up with gas and turned around.
On my way back through town, I took the toll bridge over the harbour (25¢), which brought me right onto the freeway, rather than the route by the Reversing Falls, which I had taken too many times. It was 16:00 as I headed west from St. John along Highway 1. Sheryl dozed as I drove.
We arrived at St. Andrews by the Sea an hour later, at 17:00, completing the last few minutes along a narrow, twisting road. The motel where I had booked our reservations was a somewhat modern one located on the outskirts of town. We came upon it before we reached the town, so I zipped right on in and we checked in. We got a room near the middle of the long, narrow complex, facing a big, grassy expanse. We napped until 18:00
We awoke refreshed and headed on into town for the evening. Our motel was located just outside the built-up portion of the small town. We followed Mowat Drive in and made a first pass along the six to eight block waterfront downtown of St. Andrew's, coming out the far end at the point, where there was a small park. St. Andrew's is built at the base of a narrow peninsula, facing the U.S. across the St. Croix River. The main section of town consists roughly of a four block by eight block grid, comprised of New England style homes and churches and descending the hill towards the waterfront. The main commercial street runs along the waterfront, separated from the river by only a single line of buildings. Halfway along is a small town square, with a pier extending out into the water.
After exploring the point, where the breakers of the open ocean were crashing upon the rocky beach, we retraced out route back into the town and found a parking place near the south end of the main street. Sheryl went off and explored a soap store while I talked up an itinerant tinker who was living in a Gypsy-style wagon parked along the street.
The man had a very interesting story to tell. According to him, the town had been trying to get him to move along for some time, but an obscure New Brunswick law gave special privileges to horse-drawn wagons, including the right to park and live on the street. He told me his horse was grazing on a farm just outside of town. He apparently spends the entire Summer riding the back roads of New Brunswick at a horse-drawn speed of two to three miles per hour. I felt a certain kinship with him, as I described my 13-day trek at six to eight miles per hour, already several times his speed.
Sheryl came out and we walked on down to the town square and out to the end of the wharf. The tide was out and the whole shoreline was a massive mud flat. The sun was behind us as we looked back on the town, lit in blazing yellow by the setting sun.
We walked back in and found a free corner in the busy and trendy restaurant right on the town square called "The Grill". We learned it had just been bought by some California émigrés, from Laguna Beach. We had seafood chowder and Caesar salads with chicken. I started off with a beer and we finished off with a couple of lattés.
On the way back, I drove back down to the point once more, to watch out over the sea in the darkness. Then I followed the road back up and around the far side of the thin peninsula, coming out at the top of the hill at the historic turn-of-the-century Algonquin Hotel, the grand hotel of St. Andrew's by the Sea.
We were out by 09:15 and walked across the parking lot to the motel restaurant for some breakfast: 3 egg cheese omelettes with bacon.
Our first stop of the day was the Kinsgsbrae Gardens, where we spent from 11:00 to 14:30. These gardens were located up at the back of town, looking down the far slope of the peninsula. We took it easy, proceeding at Sheryl's more relaxed pace.
(Description from brochure removed in this lite version.)
After touring the entire garden and fully exploring the gift shop, we ended up at the Garden Cafe, where we had lunch as we looked out on the great view. Besides the bay stretched out far below, the foreground was populated by giant pieces of furniture made out of shrubs. The service was great!
As we were walking back towards the car, Sheryl spied the garden shop and took a leisurely gander through, looking at the plants. I sat down at the entrance and wrote in my journal.
We drove on down King Street (a few short blocks only) and spied a book sale at the town library, where we really cleaned up. It was a great haul and we came out with arms full of books. It was 15:30 by the time we were done there.
We walked on down to Water Street, where Sheryl began going through the shops north of the town square, one by one. We happened by a lobster restaurant and I saw they had a terrace right out on the water, so went in and made reservations for 19:00 that evening.
From the town squre, we walked a couple of blocks up to Parr Street, to check out the town's antique stores, and then walked back around the blocks, admiring the town's architecture, until we found ourselves once more back on Water Street. We happened into a jewelry store where we discovered the owner was from Mascouche and had gone to Rosemere High School back in 1972. I bought Sheryl some earrings. We had finished the shops of Water Street by 19:00. Sheryl made another visit to the soap shop and I stopped once more to talk up the tinker outside. I ended up buying his CD
I walked Sheryl down to the restaurant where I had made reservations and we got a table right out on the wooden terrace overlooking the water. It was dead calm and the tide was out. The sun was setting to the west, over the American shore that was so close one could almost reach out and touch it. We filled ourselves with steamers, lobsters and salad.
After dinner, we drove back to the motel and settled at a table out on the grassy expanse before the rooms with our bottle of sparkling wine. We remained out there until 21:00
We awoke at 08:00 and had breakfast once more at the motel restuarant, where I again had the omelette, but this time Sheryl had only oatmeal.
Before leaving town, I wanted to visit the stately Algonquin Hotel. We drove up to its place on the hill, parked, and took a little walkabout.
Then we drove to St. Stephen, less that half an hour away. Along the way we followed the local road up along the St. Croix River. We passed by the island where they had found Champlain's original settlement. (It was on the basis of this settlement's location that the Maine-New Brunswick boundary was set.) Just outside St. Stephen we rejoined the main highway and followed it into St. Stephen. As we approached the waterfront, we got caught in the traffic waiting to cross the bridge. Eventually, a few blocks from the bridge, I just parked.
(Description from town brochure removed from this lite version.)
We had originally planned to cross and return via Maine, but since we had so many plants drying in the car, we decided this would not be wise. I was still spooked by my recent border experience at any rate.
We found a bookstore which we explored for a while. Then we took a walk down the street to the border crossing and back. I turned the car around and drove back (no traffic at all) a few blocks, to the Tourist Information Centre, located in an historic, old train station. Sheryl had wanted to explore a shop near there and I delighted in the chance to walk down to the waterfront and get some photos. I still have time to explored the Centre.
It was turning out to be a very hot day. Once Sheryl was done, we took a break at the air-conditioned Atlantic Superstore located on the road into town, buying some eats for the trip home. We were done and on our way at 12:00.
I headed out of St. Stephen along Highway 3, a shortcut that would cut across the diagonal of the rough corner we had made descending south form Fredericton to St. John and the west to St. Stephen. There was a brief stop at Harvey Junction, where we explored an antique store for an hour or so. A bit north from there, we connected with the Trans-Canada Highway 2, just a bit west of Fredericton. It was a thrill driving along the south side of the river, and looking over to the far side imagining where I had ridden a few days earlier.
We made a luncheon stop at the Irving truck stop on the island, just south of Woodstock. It was 15:00 as we enjoyed our lunch of fresh bread and hummus, while sitting at a shady picnic table provided, the sign advised us, through private funds. This was the same truck stop I had spied from the top of the hill while riding from Woodstock to Nackawic.
At 16:00, I passed the familiar motel at Beechwood. It had only taken 8 minutes to drive from the Florencevile Bridge to the motel, a far cry from the hour it had taken me by bicycle!
Around 17:00, I pulled off briefly in Edmundston to gas up. When we crossed back into Quebec, we gained an hour and it was once again only 16:00.
We stopped at Levis for supper at 19:30, finding a familiar Cage aux Sports restaurant. The drive up the St. Lawrence along Highway 20, south of Rivière du Loup, had been spectacular as usual.
We pulled off just past the bridge interchange to get some coffee to go at Tim Hortons, and then we set out on the homeward section of Highway 20. We ran into a heavy thunderstorm on our way home from Quebec City.
We reached home at 23:30. The drive from St. Stephen’s had taken 12 hours. Coming back into town, I filled up with gas and we stopped to buy milk. We sat, then, and had our coffee together in bed to celebrate out trip.
Roger Kenner, copyright
Originally writtin in the Fall of 2002,
Transcribed & revised: May, 2004
Lite Version: Fall 2004 & January 2005