Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Origins of a trip and blog

Origins of the trip

It is hard to say why one does anything, let alone an idea so foolish as cycling significant distances in a region known for bad weather and rough terrain, but I think the seeds of this expedition began on my last expedition, which involved cycling considerable distances in a region known for good weather and rough-ish terrain, namely Spain and, to a lesser extent, Portugal.

Last May, I cycled from Seville (or Sevilla as the locals spell it) to Santiago de Compostela in the company of my aunt Margo and her husband Chris. During our trip, we discussed ideas for other cycle-touring adventures, one of which was to explore parts of Quebec, notably the Gaspé. While Margo is from Montreal, she and Chris live in Vancouver and he has never been to that part of Quebec. I was lukewarm to the idea as the Gaspé is not terribly interesting to me as it suggested a lot of hills.

When I got back to Montreal, I found out that my sister was moving to Newfoundland, specifically, Port-Aux-Basques. This lead me to the idea of flying out to see her and cycling home. A certain amount of research and mediation led me to the decision to invert the order of events and cycle to Newfoundland and fly home. The reasons were that the prevailing winds tend to blow from West to East and that I don't have to worry about my bike being damaged on the plane before I start.

At first this was mostly a mental exercise, but the planning has snowballed. Two things that encouraged it were the Trans-Canada Trail Guide to Newfoundland and the Guide de la Route Verte. While the information in the former can be summarized as forget taking your touring bike on the TCT, the latter describes bike routes from about 4-5 blocks away from here all the way to New Brunswick.

Choice of Route

While I cast a few thoughts about going through the United States, the fact of the matter is, Maine really isn't a great for bicycles. Every time, I cross the border into Maine, I feel I have left "settled" country for the boondocks. Don't get me wrong, Maine is settled, just not very densely compared to the surrounding Canadian regions. Also, if I don't go through the United States, I don't have to bother bringing my passport.

Oddly enough, deciding which route to be take through the four provinces I will be visiting was fairly simple for in three cases. There is only one road that can be taken for most of the distance in Newfoundland. For Quebec and Nova Scotia the decisions depended on the route taken through New Brunswick. Once New Brunswick was decided, the routes to be taken were fairly obvious.

The Route Verte network reaches New Brunswick in two locations. One goes to Edmundston via an old railbed, i.e. very good cycling. (Indeed, my parents raved about it.) The other goes via a lesser cycling route to Campbellton. From either of these two starting points in New Brunswick, three routes suggest themselves. The first is to cycle down the Saint John river from Edmundston to Saint John, N.B. (as opposed to St. John's, Newfoundland) and from there take the ferry to Digby, N.S. From Digby, the route to North Sidney (and the ferry to Newfoundland) is fairly obvious. Alternatively, I could go up the Bay of Fundy and cross into Nova Scotia by land. However, I drove this route a couple of years ago and it didn't strike me as great cycle-touring. So instead, I will go from Campbellton, down the Eastern (or Acadian) coast of New Brunswick.

This route has three distinct advantages. The first is that I have never seen that part of New Brunswick. The second is that it goes through Campbellton, New Brunswick. My maternal grandfather (Margo's father by the way) came from Campbeltown, Scotland and the similar name amuses me. The third reason, is that I now have a decent excuse not to visit a pair of uncles in Berwick, Nova Scotia as said local is too far off the logical route.
(One them decided to retire from teaching history in Ottawa and set himself up as peasant farmer. At one point he was raising veal calves despite not having an established outlet for said veal, and was also letting them get too old to be interesting veal, but not old enough to be proper beef. My uncle neglected to do the market research which would have told him that there wasn't a market for "cuddly calf" veal in Nova Scotia. I understand he is now out of the veal business. The other uncle, an unemployed Roman Catholic priest, decided to join in on the farming venture and moved to Berwick as well. For various reasons, I find them a bit much. They are on my father's side of the family.)

Origins of the blog

I was inspired to write this from reading Margo and Chris' blog, Wanderings. As well, I feel the need to express in writing my thoughts on the planning process. With any luck, I will posting from Cyber cafés from here to Deer Lake. Maybe even beyond.

The name Moose Wanderings, comes from a combination of their blog title and the role of the moose as a symbol of the trip. While in Spain, I put a bull sticker on my bike, as a symbol of Spain. While pondering this proposed trip, I had the silly idea that I should get a moose sticker for this trip as one could argue moose are a symbol of the regions I will be traveling in. I also have Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers' song "Gotta get me moose, b'y" running through my head. It evokes Newfie culture to me. As well, the odyssey the narrator of the song goes through could be seen as similarly quixiotic as the undertaking I am thinking of.

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