Tuesday, 26 August 2008

On close encounters with mooses

For the time being, I will leave out a detailed description of the beach party, except to say that it involved a beach, a bonfire and plenty of beer. A little after midnight on Friday, I left Alice and Jason on the beach to walk back to the house.

The house that Alice and Mark share is at the end of Hospital Lane. The closest house to it is at quite a distance, and the woods surround it. That night, still and quiet as it was, was quite beautiful, if a mite eerie to someone who has lived in a city for nearly ten years. Just past the last house, a movement on the left hand side of the road caught my eye.
There was a suggestion of a large shape in the darkness. Taking pictures using a flash revealed an eye in the darkness......and then two eyes.
In fact, there were two sets of eyes. In the poor light and my somewhat sozzled state, it took me a few moments to figure out just what was I was seeing: a cow moose...
... and its calf were browsing at the edge of the road!I wasn't quite sure of what the safe way to deal with them was, so I settled on trying to take a good picture of them with my digital camera while talking to the cow moose in a low voice.
Actually, I was just talking, and I doubt either moose was really appreciating that I didn't mean them any particular harm. However, the fact that they continued to nibble at the foliage suggested that they weren't terribly concerned by my presence.I managed to get fairly close to the mooses, bearing in mind that these photographs were taken using a 3x zoom.
The thing was, that while I didn't want to disturb them, they were in between myself and my bed. As the latter was calling, I moved slowly along the road, while politely trying to explain the the situation to the cow moose.
To be honest, I am not sure I would have felt quite comfortable if the mooses had stayed in one spot, and let me sidle past. Cow mooses can be quite protective of their young, and both of them outweighed me by a long shot. Consequently, it was probably a good thing that as I approached them, they moved down the road. For one thing, it brought them under a streetlight that allowed me to get a number of shots of them in without using the flash. This is probably the best of them.
As we arrived in Alice's and Mark's parking lot, the moose slipped into the shadows and disappeared.

The whole thing happened in an eerie quiet broken only by my speech and camera shutter sound. There was a decidedly dream-like quality to the event. I know it wasn't a dream as the pictures prove, but it had wonderfully cozy and dreamy feel to it. The fact that I had been dozing near the bonfire and was alcohol positive probably had something to do with it. Nonetheless, I now feel that the moose is my totem animal.

The fact that I am big and ungainly has only a little to do with it. ;-)

Sunday, 24 August 2008

On my return

"Well, I'm back." to quote the last piece of dialog from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Less than twelve hours ago, I was standing on top of the Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park and now I'm back in Montreal. Much has happened since my last post involving bikes, beer, mooses, boats and more beer, but I think that the telling must wait for another day.

Joey LeBaron met me at the airport and drove my bike and me home. I was saddened to learn from her that Marion, the veteran cashier at the store had died while I was away. She was a character at the store, one you would have trouble putting into a story as your editor would tell you to tone the character down as no one cackles and jokes like that.

Joey asked me an interesting question: "How many days was I biking?" It took me a while but the answer came out as 25, though I will have to review my math and my notes before making a definitive statement. Odometer at the start was 1658.7 km. At the end, it was 3840.0, thus a little under 2200 km. Not bad, not bad at all.

After Norris Point, Montreal seems very big and overly full of people. It is also very muggy, but that should change by tomorrow. The projected highs and lows for the next few days are 21 and 9 respectively. These seem rather low for the season, but I really don't mind as I am something of a low temperature guy.

Work begins tomorrow, ugh!

Friday, 22 August 2008

On ponds and music

I began my exploration of Gros Morne park and area with what I thought would be a gentle stroll to the start of the lane with a cup of coffee. I had barely got past the cars when I spotted a tall ship going past through the trees. I rushed back inside and hurriedly collected my camera and other gear to pedal down to downtown Norris Point to be able to properly witness the ship.

She proved to be a three-master, with square sails on the foremast and fore and aft sails on the other masts. Precisely what this makes her in nautical terms, I don't know. She was the Caledonia and is said to be a regular (weekly) sight in these parts. The Caledonia appears to be of fairly modern construction judging by the location and shape of the wheelhouse. I also have this strange idea that she was in Halifax the last time I was there.

After admiring the tall ship (admittedly not under sail), I visited the Marine Station where I had the chance to see a two toned lobster, as in one side was a regular colour for lobsters and the other was a very bright orange. Very weird. I will illustrate this with an image when I get home.

I returned to the house and borrowed Mark's Jetta to go see Rocky Harbour. Before I got to the hospital, I met Alice and we went together to Rocky Harbour for lunch at Java Jack's. In the afternoon, we went on a boat tour of Western Brook Pond. This glacially carved valley is very stunning as well as being extremely evocative of mystery and adventure. The geology was admittedly fairly familiar to me, at least in theory. (You don't grow up the son of a glacial geologist without picking up some notions of geology.) However, the execution of this valley was incredible with many different types of cliff: smooth rocks, craggy rocks, cracked rocks, tree covered cliffs, and boulder fields. Absolutely stunning. (Pappy, you have to do this tour the next time you are here. You should also go see the Tablelands as well.)

That evening, Mark arrived with Alice's friend Jason who had just flown in from England. We then went to a pub in Rock Harbour for a night of maritime music with the Navigators. The experience would have been better had the sound system been better set up and not as loud. All the same, it is not just a myth that the Newfoundlanders, young and old, love their music, as young and old were dancing to the music.

Today, Jason and I moseyed around Norris Point, taking in the sights and generally being very relaxed in the fabulous weather. When Jason was going through security at Gatwick Airport, the agent had looked at his boarding card and inquired where was Deer Lake? Today, Jason was commenting that if people in the U.K. could see how nice it was in Norris Point, then his charter flight wouldn't have been mostly empty and would be a daily rather than weekly service. I pointed out that such good weather is relatively rare.

Tonight, we are going to make a bonfire on a nearby beach and cook fish over it. Hmm, do we have marshmallows?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

On getting me moose, b'ye!

Well, I made it. I got to Norris Point yesterday afternoon after some tough biking made more problematic by rain and wind. The road was tough with plenty of hills one of which I was very happy that I was going down and not up. In addition, I left under significant rain. It eased off after a spell, to the point that I no longer needed full rain gear. However, it wasn't warm and there was a fair bit of wind. Just before I entered Gros Morne park I changed my cycling jersey for a drier one. My outfit still wasn't optimum so eventually I changed again, this time into the merino shirt and my cycling tights. That worked quite well.

As I cycled through Gros Morne park, I reflected on the fact that I had yet to see a moose on the hoof. (I had seen a moose hoof, but that's another story.) I called out "Here, moosey, moosey, moosey," but none reared its head.

Then it happened. I was at the junction to the road that lead to Norris Point. Across from me were a number of signs for B&Bs and restaurants and, lurking among them, a cow moose. We looked at each other for a few seconds, then she turned away, and disappeared in a high-stepping trot into the dense woods.
This is where I saw the moose

I chortled out loud at the coincidence. I suspect that had anyone heard me, they might have questioned my sanity. Of course, many people question my sanity for biking as much as I do!

Mark was at home to greet me. Alice soon joined us and brought out the bubbly to celebrate my achievement. Exclesior!!!

Gros Morne Park is beautiful if at the mercy of the weather. I can't write long as the Norris Point Public Library will be closing shortly.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

On penultimate day of cycling

A good day of cycling, but not exceptional. Rather hot and sweaty. When I was having lunch in Pasadena, someone asked me where I was going. When I said "Norris Point", he said "You'll see plenty of moose there." I laughed and said "I hope so!"

This post is coming to you from the Deer Lake Public Library, of which I am now a card-carrying visiting computer user of. The card is apparently good in other libraries in Newfoundland & Labrador. It would appear that this province is well in advance of Quebec with regards to libraries.

On the ferry crossing

Yes, this entry is arguably out of sequence, but I had to write about my great day yesterday, and didn't want to waste time writing about the ferry. Not the end of the world.

Getting on the ferry involved waiting around for a fair bit in the sun while Leif Eriksson was first unloaded. At first, I chatted with motorcyclist who was a trip that had taken him and his terrier (yorkie type) all around the coastline of the continental U.S.. I joked that it would be rather hard to do the same for Canada. A little while later, another cyclist showed up, namely an Israeli on a CCM bike wearing a huge backpack. From talking with him, I gathered that his deal was more being a backpacker with a bike, than true cycle-touring. When our paths crossed again as we were untying our bikes at the end of the crossing, he told me that he had cadged a lift from someone during the crossing.

On the whole, I think the crossing was pretty unremarkable. That almost makes it remarkable. It was quite sunny and warm at first, so I lay on a bench on the deck and suntanned for a stretch. I was half tempted to go to the bar and order a boat drink!

Later in the trip, I saw at least one whale. I had been reading the shade, when I happened to look out to sea. There I saw a whale blow. I jumped up and ran to rail, in time to see a second blow. Unfortunately, that was all I saw. Whether this was one whale blowing twice or two separate whales, I cannot swear to. Nor can I swear to the species. My pet theory is that it (or they) was (were) large rorqual type whales, likely fin or blue whales. This is based on the fact that the blows were fairly substantial (suggesting a large whale) and that I didn't see a back breaking the surface, thereby likely excluding humpbacks or sperm whales. Then again, it could have been minke whales closer than I thought.

It eventually became foggy, and it was in the fog that we made Port-aux-Basques. The town seems almost stereotypically Newfoundland with houses clinging to the rocky shore. Why someone hasn't built a subdivision a bit inland where it is flatter is a question for the philosophers or possibly the human geographers.

In any case, I should be off. Today will be a relatively short and easy day to Deer Lake.

Monday, 18 August 2008

On the best day of biking

Yesterday was a bit of a washout. The Nfld Trailway was an extreme disappointment with very little in the way of decent surfaces for biking even on the short distance I was on it. Just before I got off it, I hit some soft, deep, wet sand that clung to various surfaces on my bike and simply wasn't rideable. In addition, it was foggy and pissing with rain for much of the day.
On the plus side, over breakfast at the Radio Station Inn B&B someone recommended the Wreckhouse Haven Tea room to me. This proved to be a bit further along the road than I anticipated but was just right for lunch. Lunch was a clubhouse sandwich, a bowl of thick pea soup, partridgeberry pudding and warm Newfoundland hospitality. It was a bit like sitting in someone's kitchen listening to them gossip about so-and-so who was in the hospital. I almost broke down and ordered a second dessert in the form of the blueberry grunt that two other patrons were raving about. I probably should have.

I had opted for the Midway Motel as lodging for the night. Unfortunately, it didn't have much in the way of food, so supper was an egg salad sandwich, a bag of Doritos, a bottle of milk, a muffin, some pemmican, a fruit bar and some oatmeal cookies, the latter three items coming from my food reserves. My first breakfast was also ad hoc consisting of a banana, the remaining oatmeal cookies and some coffee. Needless to say, I was eager to pedal the 30 odd km to the Ultramar station where reliable intelligence suggested that breakfast might be had.
Yesterday evening I spoke with Alice, Mark and Olivier. The latter was in Corner Brook and offered me a sofa to sleep on. In my planning, I had been going to spend tonight in Stephenville. This would have been a mistake and I am glad I changed my plans. Today has probably been the finest day of cycling I have ever had. The weather was sunny with fluffy clouds and the wind was at my back. The Trans Canada Highway (or TCH to the locals) is a biker's dream. My average for the day was 26.1 km/h. The maximum speed was 69.6 km/h!!!! I am going to get Olivier to sign a piece of paper testifying to this result!!!!

In addition, the landscape is very scenic. About the only fault I can find with it is that I have yet to see a moose.
Today has been a blast. Olivier has made me feel very welcome and has served me some delicious clam chowder made from clams he caught a couple of days ago. Cheers.

Friday, 15 August 2008

On choices well made and musings on Scots

Well, I'm in North Sydney at a basic but comfortable B&B overlooking the harbour. With exception of one long, steepish hill, Route 223 was a blast. Not quite as fast as West Bay to Marble Mountain, but with better views. While there wasn't a paved shoulder, the traffic was quite light. I amused myself by counting how many cars went by in either direction. After half an hour, I had only counted 18. I would have counted for a full hour, but I came across a convenience store that was the obvious place to stop for elevenses, in this case an oatmeal cookie and some chocolate milk. Needless to say, by stopping I would have "upset" the data gathering. All things considered, I think I made the right choice.

Another interesting and correct choice I have made a couple of times is to get milk as a snack drink. To knock back lovely cold milk can really hit the spot. Unfortunately, milk doesn't work as a drink carry with you. If I may refer to this earlier post, I think I have proved point 7 of why it is better cycle tour in Canada than in Spain.

I did a load of laundry this afternoon in an actual laundromat as opposed to the old sink and Campsuds routine. While my clothes were in the dryer, a family came in from a SUV with a B.C. license plate. The elder of the children was moaning about having to wait. His mom shushed him saying they weren't going to go anywhere anyway until they got on the 10 AM ferry tomorrow morning, i.e. the same one as me. Using this point, I chatted with them for a bit.

Outside the public library there was a seriously long-distance touring bike. As in a spare tire in evidence along with the capacity to carry at least 5 liters of H2O. I was tempted to go in and see if I could figure out which person at which public access computer the bike belonged to. I didn't, partly out of shame of being a yuppie "wimp" de-caffeinated credit card cycle tourist. I went into the library later in the day and bought some old National Geographics to read on the ferry. My leisure reading material on this trip is Dickens' Bleak House which isn't a whole lot of fun.

When I came into North Sydney, I was greeted by the sight of the Caribou and the Leif Eriksson the ferry terminal. These Marine Atlantic ferries are bloody big ships. As I looked for somewhere for lunch, I was a bit surprised to see a number of people in safety vests walking around. I assumed they were ferry workers. After some thought, I began to realize just how much manpower it takes to run those ships and to insure smooth operation around the clock.

One of the things that struck me about the Highland Heritage Village was just how spartan the existence of the people in the houses would have been. The visitor follows a path leading him or her through a chronological sequence of houses that a family would have been living in. It begins with the Scottish black house. Next is a log cabin, a frame house, a central chimney house and a central corridor house. (At least I think that was the progression.) All of these houses were rather austere. The central chimney house, in particular, featured very thin internal walls. In effect, these types of houses were of relatively low quality and were not terribly comfortably built. I am suspicious that this might explain why I have seem so many abandoned old houses and many newish prefab houses. I suspect that to bring the old houses up to modern standards of comfort would require too much time and money for the return on the investment for the locals. The B&B I stayed in Port Hawksbury was the former residence of a Victorian-era ferry-boat captain. The owner described how when they renovated it, they didn't find any insulation. "Not even newspaper." And this was a "nice" house.

Another thing that I got out of the Highland Village was the very different fates of Scots in Nova Scotia. The Pictou Scots seem to have done very well for themselves, at least for a while, whereas the Bras d'Or Scots seem to have done relatively poorly. I suspect that my uncle Julian would say that I should write a research paper on the topic.

On the road taken

After much agonizing and heart searching, I ended choosing to take my originally planned route via Iona and route 223. This despite Victor Chislom's suggestion of going via Baddeck (see the comments on the last entry.)

I think I made the right decision as yesterday was a blast. The road from West Bay to Marble Mountain was a blast partly as it was about the first time on this trip when I have had the sea (or in this case Bras d'Or Lake) on my right (i.e. my side of the road). More importantly, I was in the zone on that road. I was going like a bomb up and down the hills. There may have been a magnetic hill effect at one point as I was going up (I thought) a slight hill and feeling good about my speed. I looked down to see that I was doing about 34 km/h! I was doing bloody good. I am feeling a bit tired but also very fit. I rock on a bike.

Marble Mountain was a beautiful spot. Unfortunately, not too long after that, the road degenerated to a dirt surface that wasn't as smooth. It was, however, fairly level so the biking wasn't too bad. The route took me through Orangedale where I stopped to see the surprisingly great railway museum. The place wasn't large, nor did it have that much in the way of rolling stock. However, it had a large number of railway station artifacts on hand, including a railway station building. It was obviously a labour of love of the old railway hand who is likely the driving force behind it. I can only hope that someone picks up the yoke when he dies, or else the place is likely to fade into nothing as it is well off the beaten path.

I stopped for the day in Iona. There I visited the Highland Village. One of the most interesting parts of it was to see a reproduction of a Highland "black house" circa 1790. The building might well be described as a miserable, sod roofed, stone walled hovel. I was struck by the contrast of this peasant building with the fine houses of Edinburgh that David Hume, Adam Smith and William Robertson would have been living in roughly the same time period. (To those who don't know, I wrote a master's dissertation on the historians (Hume and Robertson at the foremost) in Edinburgh in rough period 1740-1800.)

I think that if my parents are ever in this part of the world, they should make a stop at the Highland Village. My mother (nee Mactaggart) would be interested in the Scottish history whereas my father would be fascinated by all the woodworking tools.

It began to rain near the end of my visit to the Highland Village, but my day was done so it didn't signify. There was something of a storm overnight but the day looks like it will be perfect. As I type this, I am looking out at the Barra Straits and mostly sunny skies.

I referred to Victor Chilsom earlier. He is a cyclist whom I believe is currently living in Montreal but is from these parts. It took a while to register but since I been in cycling in Nova Scotia, I have noticed a number of signs featuring the name Chilsom, including a road marked with intended irony "The Chilsom Trail". Eventually, I put two and two together and realised that it would appear there are a number of Chilsoms in the area.

I have booked passage on the 10 AM ferry to Port-Aux-Basques tomorrow along with a bed for tonight in a B&B that I believe is run by a Newfoundlander. I should be off to take advantage of the relatively short day today.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

On bad days and good days

Yesterday was a lousy day for biking in Nova Scotia. It started off fairly well with overcast skies and the sighting of a fawn and its mother by the side of the road. Actually, I only really saw the fawn for certain. It crashed into the undergrowth in the woods next to the road. I glimpsed the flash of another deer's white tail moving through the trees. I therefore assumed that it was the mother. I had a bit difficulty figuring out if the road I thought was Glenfalloch (or Glen Phallic as I thought of it) was indeed that road. The volunteered assistance of a passing couple didn't help that much. In the event, I decided that it was said road and gaily rode down the gravel road which turned into a rather rutted dirt road where people had been logging. It was worth a picture or two that I will post in due time.

The road came out where I expected and I got on the Trans-Canada for a short while before turning off onto a lesser coastal road (highway 245). The road was okay but it began to rain fairly heavily and the going got slow. The road took me through a Gaelic area with signs in both English and Gaelic.

It also had St. Margaret of Scotland Roman Catholic Church which struck me as an odd mix. I later found out from my B&B hosts in Antigonish that the area was settled by Catholic Highlanders whereas the Highlanders in Pictou were Presbyterian.

At Malignant Cove, I decided not to take the Little Cabot Trail around Cape George, and instead opted for the shorter and flatter route directly into Antigonish. Nearing the town, I came across an area of construction where the asphalt had been partially ripped off leaving a washboard like surface to ride on. It was very unpleasant and exhausting. When I got to my B&B, the hosts remarked on how tired I looked. Fortunately, they had some excellent freshly made oatcakes on hand.

Today was another kettle of fish entirely. For one thing, the wind was at my back for most of the time and I fairly flew along. At one point, the average speed on my bike computer was 24 km/h! In addition, the weather was a beautiful mix of sun and cloud. The only problem was wiping off the sweat mostly caused by the relatively high humidity. This was a day made for biking.

Unfortunately, it was always going to be a short day on account of Antigonish being relatively close to the Canso Causeway. I was here in Port Hawksbury by lunch time. Going further wasn't an option as there isn't a good place to stop near enough to the Causeway for today. Today is therefore a bit of a rest day.

After I had wheeed across the Causeway (which could do with a better shoulder for bikes, please Transport Canada or Nova Scotia Highways), I stopped for a victory picture, arms in the air. Cape Breton is almost a province unto itself so in theory, I have mastered another province. However, I will settle for three and a half provinces down, one and half more to go.

One important sign of progress in this trip is people's reactions to my goal of biking from Montreal to Newfoundand. They are no longer impressed that I am intending on biking to Newfoundland: they are impressed that I have got to here from Montreal.

This evening I need to decide if I will be going via Baddeck or Iona on my way to North Sydney. Each route has its own advantages and disadvantages. The deciding factor will be whether the spouse of the goddaughter of a distant-ish cousin will be around. Having written that, I recognise that it sounds like a very tenuous connection.

Another thing that made today a good day was that I got to let the boy in me watch a train being held up by a tugboat going through the Canso Causeway Canal, and then the swing bridge going back into place. Good fun for the inner child.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

On a fortuitous failure

I had planned and hoped to get an early start from Charlottetown. Partly this was in order to catch the 11:15 ferry at Wood Island to Caribou, N.S.. However, I failed to get going quickly enough by a margin of about 15 minutes. This proved to be a benefit. The next ferry was at one o'clock. The ferry terminal proved to be a relatively pleasant place to wait with sunny skies, ice cream and scenery to help pass the time.

My plan for Pictou had been to visit the Hector, a replica of the ship that first brought Highland Scots to the area and then carry on. However, because of missing the ferry, by the time I was done with the Hector (less interesting than it sounded partly because I know too much about the subject for me to accept the conventional version of events put forward by the museum) it was about 4 in the afternoon. I could have carried on and found a bed in New Glasgow, but owing to a glitch in the Nova Scotia guide to accomodation, I couldn't phone the B&B in New Glasgow. As I was heading to the tourist information office to find out the answer to my question (area code 902 as it turned out) I passed the Willow House Inn, a B&B I had read about in my Lonely Planet Guidebook.

It was a building built circa 1840 according to one the signs on it. It also had a sign saying "Vacancies". It is a cosy, eccentric place run by Jimmy and Debbie who clearly love the place and their job. I got a warm welcome and an excellent room at a very reasonably price. The building is absolutely charming with two sets of back to back staircases. In addition, everything of serious note in Pictou was within easy walking distance of the place giving me the chance to explore the lovely town of Pictou.

The town obviously had some serious wealth in the 19th century judging by the presence of many fine buildings from that era including a former U.S. consultate. Actually, the presence of a consultate suggests the importance of the town back in the day.

All in all, yesterday rocked! Pictou is a place to visit. If you do visit, you can do far worse than the Willow House Inn.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

On a restful day

I have just spent a fairly restful and rather touristy day here in Charlottetown. Last evenings lobster was succulent, but I think it would have been better with melted garlic butter instead of regular butter. Then again, just about everything goes better with garlic.

I slept in quite late, before going downtown to take the Harbour Hippo tour. This is taken in an amphibious bus allowing the tourist to get both the town and harbour tours in one. What they don't say is that Charlottetown has a remarkably dull harbour. No commercial traffic to speak of, no wrecks, and nobody drowned. Nothing to laugh at at all. About the most interesting things to see were the cormorants. Oh, and the ketch rigged yacht whose home port was Venice. (Since returning home, I have discovered that it was the Jancris, a 56' Mikado ketch.)

I also took in Province House, Founders' Hall and Beaconsfield House. Lunch was at the only brewpub on the Island. They have a very good brown ale.

I must get back to the motel in order to give Leonardo a good oiling. There has been a fair bit of rain, so he deserves a bit of attention. I only hope I have a spare rag.

The weather has been fairly sunny today, though rain clouds have been visible every now and then. Yesterday started off quite rainy but turned quite nice.

I phoned my uncle Julian up to get his professorial opinion on a couple of historical matters. The first was the Battle of the Restigouche. He more or less agreed with me that the Parks Canada presentation was substandard and biased. The second question related to my biking from Moncton in the Bay of Fundy watershed to Shediac on the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. The distance is only about 25 km and the land isn't very high. I was curious to know if there had been any attempt to build a canal from the Bay of Fundy to the Gulf. Apparently there had been a private venture to do so during the 1880s or so, but the company collapsed before the canal was even remotely completed.

When Julian found out I was in P.E.I. he asked me to come and stay with him. When I pointed out that it would represent two days of biking to get to him and another two days to get back, he offered to drive two hours to pick me up and then return me to my starting point. I politely turned him down, as I felt that having someone drive for eight hours would probably defeat the ecological side of my trip.

I bought some lobster stickers to affix to Leonardo today. I think I will put one opposite the cockle shell.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

On resting in Charlottetown and thoughts on the trip so far

I am in a Charlottetown internet gaming joint and I have used their connection and equipment to upload a number of images into earlier posts.

Charlottetown is very nice and I am optimistic that I will be able to A. get some serious resting in, and B. find some lobster to eat. The previous point is relevant as I haven't had a proper rest day so far.

I travelled through some Acadian areas of New Brunswick. I was surprised at just how firmly they wish to be Acadian with no doubt about it. There are more Acadian flags and other symbols displayed per capita than Fleur de Lys in Quebec. This extends to decorating the telephone poles in red, white and blue and the Stella marine.
While I was in Bathurst, I spent some time sunning myself on the beach.
Shediac is grossly overun with tourists and people trying to make money off tourists. However, that did me the license to pose with Shediac's giant lobster. I got some Chinese(?) tourists to take my picture.
Anyway, I can't think of anything else to write at this point, so I think I will head in search of lobster. Cheerio.

Friday, 8 August 2008

On leaving New Brunswick

I am in Cape Jourmain Nature Centre, about to get on the shuttle bus to P.E.I.. I saw P.E.I. for the first time last night after supper. I was sitting on the beach in Cap Pele looking at the sunset when I noticed land on the distant horizon. It was a very special moment as I could see rain squalls, a rainbow and a beautiful sunset.I am now two provinces down with three to go. Each time I change provinces it will be (or has been) over water.
Sorry. The writing of this blog entry got interrupted by the shuttle bus arriving. I am now in P.E.I. at the Greenvale Acres B&B. The Confederation Trail makes for wonderful biking, especially after the indifferent biking on New Brunswick roads. It is, however, less scenic than some of the roads I was on in New Brunswick.

Getting back to my point about crossing from province to province over water, it seems a mite odd that it is the reality of this trip. If I weren't going by P.E.I., three of the provinces would be connected by land. However, given the sequence and the layout of the provinces, I guess it is only a bit odd that I crossed from Quebec to New Brunswick over water. Or possibly not. The two main crossings are in essence Edmundston and Campbellton of which the latter must be reached by water owing to the Restigouche River. I am not sure what it means, but it feels like there is something different about changing provinces by water rather than by land. I suspect that there would be something about liminal experiences and the like.

In other musings, I read a few weeks ago that farmers in some parts of the U.S. are finding it difficult to get day workers (pickers and the like) because it costs the day labourers too much in gas for them to get to the fields. The writer speculated that the high price of gas could wreck havoc in the lives economy of the rural poor who are more dependent on cars, etc. than city folk.

Why do I write this? Well, biking in northeastern New Brunswick, I saw a lot of houses and low-end economic activity that suggested that the people of the area weren't that rich and had drive significant distances to get to services and/or work. I wondered how high gas prices would affect these people. Compounding the question was the fact that the gas prices seemed to be lower than in Quebec. Given that the Irving families pretty much own the province and that they made their start from the gas industry, I speculated as whether the Irvings might decide to look after their subjects or simply exploit the buggers for all they are worth.

The train was 90 minutes late. This was probably better than it had been a few days before when I suspect it was three hours late based on when and where I saw it. It was one of the new "Rennaissance" trains and therefore quite modern and a little mystifying. The seating areas were raised slightly above the walking area. In addition, the seats were three across rather than the four across I was expecting. Very comfortable. From my impressions of the Via Rail website, there are both the Rennaissance trains and the old stainless steel trains operating on the Ocean (Montreal to Halifax) run. I must admit that I had been expecting the stainless steel trains.

The B&B I am staying tonight is a mite eccentric but very reasonable.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

On good weather at last

I am in Bathurst, New Brunswick, after two days of good weather. Very sunny but not too warm. I went swimming in the ocean near Dalhousie yesterday. I am not sure when was the last time I swam in the sea. For a while, the last time I knew I did was in the Mediterranean in 1987! However, I have just remembered that I swam with dusky dolphins off New Zealand in December, 2002, so it doesn't seem that bad.
From Campbellton to Bathurst, I have been following Highway 134 to the South. Looking at the map last night, I noticed that from the train station in Moncton, I will be taking the 134 North to get to Shediac.

In case I forgot to mention, I will be taking the train from Bathurst tomorrow morning for Moncton. This will give more time in Gros Morne.

The biking has been pretty good in New Brunswick, partly because of the good weather but also because the 134 is the old highway. Highway 11 is parallel to it and thus absorbs most of the through traffic. The scenery is very nice if unspectacular.

Right now, I am feeling very confident about my biking ability. Part of me thinks this trip will be a piece of cake! The paranoid side of me is waiting for the other boot to drop.

All for now. I am going to check out the train station and look for a bike shop. Bye.

Monday, 4 August 2008

On the road again

I now have the time to write more extensively about the last 72 hours or so. The bus ride from Montreal to Le Bic went very smoothly with never a moment of doubt that I would make the connection in Quebec City: the same bus went on from Quebec City to Le Bic. Only the driver changed!
Pascale meet me at the bus stop and drove me back to her place where I extracted Leonardo from the barn, sorted my gear, changed into biking gear and printed out my information from my data-cache. After bidding them adieu, I rolled off on my way. Suddenly, it hit me, Newfoundland was at the end of the road I was traveling. I let off a loud yeehheee!!!
The elation didn't last too long. As I whee'd down the hill to the St-Lawrence, I ran into a blast of very cool air blowing from the East off the river. All that afternoon, I fought the stiff wind. Fortunately, there was very little rain in with the wind or else it would been monumentally unpleasant.

In addition, I found I had left my map case in Montreal. I improvised one with a zip-lock bag that I will hope will last until Newfoundland. I tried looking the bike shops in Rimouski, but no luck. Maybe in Moncton or Charlottetown.
I took some photographs in Sainte-Flavie of the signs pointing to the same thing in different directions, namely Percé and route 132 East. Up the right hand branch of the 132 was Mont-Joli, and my bed of the night. Mont-Joli is a run-down industrial town right next to some tourist towns such as Sainte-Flavie and Grand-Metis. The hotel was something of an anachronism. It felt like a low end early 20th century hotel. Very comfortable, mind you.
The next day started not too badly but it eventually began to pour in a serious manner. Fortunately, I don't think I missed much scenery. The Route-Verte took me off the 132 at times. Near the end of the day, I turned off a side route in Lac-aux-Saumons onto what I thought was route 132. After about 1 km, I noticed that I hadn't been passed by much traffic and not even one RV. I wondered if I might be on the wrong road, but dismissed that thought as it didn't fit with my sense of the geography of the area. I then noticed the RV's on the road on the other side of the lake on my left. I simply hadn't reached the 132 again.

I spent the night in a B&B run by a former head of the Quebec milk producers. He said that he had started the Tour de l'Ile for a number of years starting in 1988. The B&B also housed a restaurant that specialized in crepes Bretons. These were a feature of supper and breakfast and very good they were.
Today was relatively free from rain and wind. Most the ride was following the Matapedia river down from Causapscal to the Restigouche. The Matapedia is in a canyon of possibly glacial origins (feel free to correct me, Papicito). It is heavily treed and well salmon'd as evidenced by the number of fishermen and the presence of a bald eagle. It was quite beautiful but I was glad to reach the Restigouche and more open country. It was also time for lunch.

After lunch, I visited the Parcs Canada Battle of the Restigouche Historic Site. It covered a little known but interesting post-script to the Plains of Abraham. Unfortunately, it made the battle seem more important that it was. It was also created by a francophone as it made the English seem like bad guys and gave too much weight to the French chances to begin with. The short version of the event was that in 1760 the French sent a small fleet of merchantmen guarded by one small frigate to try to support French efforts to retake Quebec City. It left France too late, and found that the Royal Navy had beaten them to the St-Lawrence. The fleet tried to hide in the Baie des Chaleurs while they sent someone to walk to Montreal for more orders. The British eventually found the fleet and sent a proper squadron of warships (three ships of the line and two frigates). The battle was something of a foregone conclusion from the word go. The only hold up for the British was trying to find the deep parts of the Restigouche for their ships. While the presentation was fairly interesting, it was needlessly biased and limited. I wonder what my uncle Julian, a naval historian of both the period and the region, would make of it, or possibly made of it. On the plus side, I was intrigued to find out that the MiqMaq word for moose is pronounced rather like "Diam" which is also the French word for a type of deer.

Time for bed.

Anyway, my watch is now set to Atlantic Time and I am in a hostel that is part of an old lighthouse in Campbellton, New Brunwick.

On leaving Quebec, province thereof

I am just about to cross the Restigouche to Campbellton, New Brunswick. I don't have much time, so I will simply say that the weather today has been the best so far. Of course, given the fact that yesterday saw record rainfall, that's not hard. But I made it!!!!
One province down, four more to go!!!

Friday, 1 August 2008

On an imminent departure

Well folks, after nearly a year of planning and fretting the day of reckoning is nigh. Part 2 of the trip begins tomorrow, at around 5 AM when I should be awoken by my alarm and head off to the bus station to catch the bus to Le Bic, my bike and points East. Tomorrow's riding should be relatively light, only a little over 50 k. What I am more worried about is making the change of buses in Ste-Foy. (Funny, I remember crossing the St-Lawrence to Ste-Foy in the bus coming back from Le Bic but I don't remember re-crossing the river. How strange is one's memory.) While the two buses are from the same company, the timing is relatively tight. On the other hand, past experience indicates that the bus company does make an effort to make the connections work despite the lateness of their buses.

I have nearly finished packing, cleaning the apartment so my mother won't whine too much when she stays here next week and have organised Mo-Cuz into dealing with my mail. I have also replaced the red MEC turtle light on my helmet for a new one, topped up my cell phone with both cash and juice and partaken of the official drink of the expedition, a.k.a. the Newfie Vesper.

A good start to the vacation, even if I do say so myself.