Thursday, 4 June 2009

On the New Brunswick trip

We were all feeling very excited, even before we got on the train to Bathurst. It had been 19 years since I last traveled by sleeping car and it was even longer for the parents. Unlike me, they got on in Drummondville.
They brought with them a bottle of bubbly which we drank in the confines of my compartment in accordance with Via Rail regulations. That only served to make as more excited. I don't know about the parents, but I failed to sleep very well. I woke up around Causapscal, before the sun had risen and watched the Matapédia canyon go by in the false dawn light. I was struck by the contrast between the hard green of the evergreen trees. This photo doesn't do justice to the scene.
I later fell asleep again and had a very strange dream set in the dream version of the Restigouche river area. It nearly had me convinced that it was reality until my sister Alice became part of the dream. Around Campbellton, I knocked on the partition between the parents' compartment and my own to rouse them in time for breakfast. Mummy asked me if my choice of a Mactaggart tartan flannel shirt (from LL Bean) was in honour of going through Campbellton, New Brunswick. (My maternal grandfather was a Mactaggart from Campbeltown, Scotland.) It wasn't.

I shan't elaborate on the first few days biking, except to provide a pictures of the rail bed we were biking on for part of the way between Bathurst and Grande-Anse. Also to say the guidebook to the New Brunswick trail leaves much to be desired, particularly with regards to cartography.
It wasn't too bad as the roads of New Brunswick are remarkably cyclist-friendly. I took the following image because of the moose sign, but it also shows the lovely wide and smooth paved shoulders that were more often present than not.New Brunswick drivers were extreme courteous to us. They generally gave us very generous amounts of space as they passed. It became almost tiresome to acknowledge their courtesy with a wave. We attracted a certain amount of friendly curiosity, partly because we were a bit out of season, as well as admiration, particularly, but not exclusively on account of the parents "advanced" age.

The weather was generally sunny but quite cool. I generally biked in my merino jersey and my cycling jacket. One person I talked to commented that the sea hadn't warmed up yet.
Nonetheless, one day I managed to ride in my official 25th anniversary of the Tour de l'Île biking jersey. However, you should note that I am wearing my cycling tights as well. That day, (Sunday, May 24th) also saw the most rain that we saw during the trip. (It also rained a bit on the last day.)
I don't think my parents really understood the character of New Brunswick beforehand. It is, in my not-so-humble opinion, something a blue-collar province. Fine cuisine wasn't much in evidence, much to my parents' chagrin. There was some evidence of culture shock, particularly in my mother. One could almost re-write the Monty Python diatribe against package tours in Spain to fit my parents. "Food mostly fried. You can't get a proper cappuccino, can you now..." ;-)

However, there were some fun bits. I added three birds to my list: American bitterns, bobolinks and common eiders. Here I am pointing out the eiders in my bird book to Pappy. If I am not mistaken we are in Cap-Lumière.
I am not sure where we were for this shot, but I have included it as it is a nice family shot. More shots are available here and here.

When I arrived at the station in Moncton well before the parents, there were a pair of young women from Toronto loading their bikes at the start of a trip that would eventually take them to Halifax. They had arrived on the train from Montreal (which had been rather late) and were about to head off towards P.E.I. Having just come from Shediac and having had a first-hand experience last summer on how difficult it was to find the right road out of Moncton (Dieppe if you want to be technical) I volunteered my expertise and showed them the exact road on their map. In return, they gave me a cardboard box to put my excess bags into. That way, I could put all the gear "Not wanted on voyage" into it and put it as checked luggage. They also admired my front, lowrider racks. They didn't have them, (one of their bikes was a mountain bike with front suspension) but evidently thought that they were a good idea.

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