Day 63: Connections

Coles Island to Dieppe, August 25, via 112 and 106

We woke to a morning of magnificent mist on the Caanan river at our quiet campground. The light spilled through slowly, glowing brighter.  We peeled a few of the farm fresh eggs I had boiled last night for breakfast.

The air was cold. It was 11 degrees C. I had on a wool hat, and jacket, and Irena and I both were shaking out our fingers from the cold. The road, however, was empty. So much so that we often rode side by side. I think we saw all of two cars in the first hour. I did notice the raptor when Irena rolled by it, spread wings and talons as yellow as the center line. Yet I also noticed it was moving, twitching, really. Maybe it was the YA book series I’d read this summer, Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children about magical bird women leaders, that compelled me to stay with it for some extended time. I spoke to the bird as if she too had guided me. I hoped I soothed its suffering, in some way. I’m still so curious about how raptors and cars can have these collisions.

Nearly 40 miles we quiet, calm, and isolated. So when we reached the junction of highway #2 in Salisbury, we were rather shocked by the huge crowds, the parking lot, and the live accordian player pushing and pulling out songs from the Maritimes. Passerbyers sang along and bought his CDs. We chatted with another cycling team, and a lively Harley couple about journeys by bike.

We continued now towards Moncton on route 106, passing the chocolately red mud river banks and the distinct strangness of the incoming tidal bore.  We wove through the red brick downtown Moncton towards the trail and paused at beautiful murals of the local bike coop La Bikery.

That’s where Marco met up with us. We had an escort/guide to his home.

I had met Marco and Jocelyne in Oka weeks ago and after contacting us through this blog, they offered to put us up in New Brunswick. Their hospitaility was top notch! We floated in their pool drinking beers and having fabulous chats, about sports, Acadican culture, healthcare, and more. I learned about ringette, an all women’s ice skate game that pre dates women’s hockey in Canada. They served us a delicious salmon dinner in their great outdoor entertaining space, and then quickly cleaned it all up to drive us around to one of their favorite beach spots for sunset: Shediac. The smell of the salt water, the boats, the warf, the hubbub! On route back, they took us to a favorite spot for special dipped ice cream. (think DQ, but without the crunch and in TONS of flavors–I had salted dark chocolate; Irena had salted caramel).

We are so greatful for kindness and connections.

 

Stats:

60 miles

world’s largest (model) lobster

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Day 61: when the rain washes you clean 

​Hartland to Fredericton, August 23

The radar said it would be over by morning. I heard the rain begin on tent around 2 a.m. and by 6 it stopped. I zipped open the tent to find the humidity hung thick, dripping off the maple. We staged in the laundry room yet again. 

Thankfully Irena had noticed a shortcut through the cornfields, allowing us to skip a long descent on the golf course driveway. 

We headed to Woodstock for breakfast at Timmy’s 20 km away. I thought I might begin to miss those retired men always sitting wondering about us and sometimes striking up a conversation. Today it was a woman her 70s with a bright yellow shirt who approached us, to tell us she still rides all the time and was proud of us. This season she told us she had ridden 80 miles one day and 45 the next. We were inspired.

I checked the radar again and we looked to be in the clear. We wanted to make up time and distance from our missed destination from yesterday, so we opted to ride the highway. Route finding has been tiresome, so at least we knew the highway was predictable. What we hadn’t planned was how hilly, and how far services/exits would be. Hills were long climbs in granny gear not unlike BC mountains, yet with none of the spectacular views. Skies were darkening, winds lifted, and I seemed to smell what was coming. I tucked my towel, now dry, in my bags just in time. Rain fell in thawps on my helmet, my handle bar bag.  Then it simply dumped. milikan style crowns of huge rain drops on the highway danced on center stage in front of me. Ribbons of water in wakes from my fenders. Speckled glasses and the shear volume of it made it hard to see. In minutes I was drenched. Puddles in my shoes. There was no where to hide.

Somehow it was laughable;  I simply smiled. In fact it reminded me of home,  commuting in a sudden storm, more common now than Seattle’s historic drizzle, thanks to global weirding.
It lasted only a half hour. My grandma used to quote Mark Twain “You don’t like the weather, wait a minute”. Everything is temporary, ephemeral. When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know. 
I left a sitzmark on the pavement in front of the gas station, that ironically was closed for gas, but open for the convienece store. 
And then the sun, and the decision to get off the highway at kings landing and ride the 102, and a chat about cyclists  akin to biologist  (lumpers and splitters) made us both happier. 
But what really made me happy on this long day was seeing Amy pull up beside me, window down and waving. For the second time in as many years this adventurous, spontaneous, full- hearted Maineiac has driven across borders to reconnect, offer hugs and baked goods, and the sweet joys of an easy and treasured friendship. Thank you Amylyn. 

She had arranged an air bnb for all three of us and we biked to it along a great trail in this capital city. 

Stats:

77 miles

One great friend 

Day 59: New Brunswick

​from the Lake Temiscousata, QB to Grand Falls, NB, August 21

Waking up wild. Stars, all of them and especially the constellations of the big Dipper and Cassiopeia, are bright overhead. Listen: the haunting chatter of loons and smooth slate stones clinking, shifting underfoot as I stumble out of the tent in the dark. Perks of getting up to pee in the wee hours. Awe. 

A few hours later I’m eating my first breakfast on the rocks, watching sunrise blush the trees to my left, still waters cut by an early morning boat. We continue to ride on the trail as blue Jays and redheaded woodpeckers catch morning snacks. Just kilometers to the marina and to the town of Degalis, like hobbits we take second breakfast.  

Trails in Quebec were simply fantastic. We had ridden a number of the Route Verte system, and the final push through the Interprovincial trail to New Brunswick was no different. Save for the lack of significance signage welcoming us to the new province. 

We biked to the visitor center for this photo. 

Then, after learning from the visitor center gal that bicycles were allowed on the freeways in New Brunswick, we biked against traffic on the freeway to get the better shot.

I also leaned that New Brunswick was first settled by the French on the north east side and the English on the south side near Maine. The English had more money, and wanted more land, so they went up to the coast burned all the houses in the French villages put the woman in one boat and the men and another boat and sent them away,” she said.  Some ended up in New Orleans, hence the Acadian/French culture there. 

We saw this flag everywhere (without text). 

And later learned it as the Acadian flag. New Brunswick is the only official bilingual province in Canada.

Pulling into the Esso at Edmunston a the man says in French “Those things don’t need gas,” but we certainly needed the fuel, and ice cream, for the body inside. It was a hot day @ 29 degrees, and gatorade was helpful. For days prior it had only been around 17 to 19 C.

Four flocks of Canada geese flew South across the St. John River into Maine. We were literally a stones throw from the border, our closest since Midway BC. 

Following the river down to the gorge of Grand Falls, was a pleasant, if somewhat hilly ride, on small local roads.  Crossing the bridge at Grand Falls was jaw droppingly awesome. The director of hydro noted the gates on top, but didn’t know if it was a power facility. 

Stats:

65 miles

Laundry/life lesson: try all the doors

Showing my elbows, for the first time, so as not to cause another blinding flare upon my return (eclipse day with the green machine!)

Day 57: Gray Day 

​Saint Jean Port Joli to Riviere du Loup, August 19

How a Seattle style late October day crept up the St. Lawrence river I have no idea. It was bright gray. Darkish, but still needing sunglasses. 

We left the beautiful st. jean port joli after a 5 mile rt detour to Timmy’s for breakfast and food for the day.

We took lunch at the beachfront of Karamouska, doning most of our jackets. While we weren’t yet in the gulf, I could almost smell the salt. A chill was in the air. Mercury never over 20.

Looking north across the road to the river, and looking south to the new hills we would soon climb again.

A spirited solo woman cyclist caught up to us and we ended up camping with the strong legged and wise hearted Jane from BC. She left her home in Vancouver July 1st and had taken just 3 rest days. Inspiring!

Determined to have a campfire the last night of the river we had a measly one but attracted nearby camping guests from their Westfalia,  Elena and Flourant, who played guitar, sang in French and american folk songs, and I even chimmed in on harmonica for a couple of classic tunes: Wise men say, and stand by me.

Stats:

66.64 miles

We are just a couple of chicks on bikes

 

Day 55: sight seeing and serendipity in Quebec 

A rest day in Quebec, August 17

We had gone to bed late, after return from a nice dinner out, and then a chat with our young host who had made rhubarb crisp.

Noah was 21, and well well beyond his years, as others had commented on warm showers. When he zipped into the driveway on his bike to greet us, his huge smile, and unaccented English was indeed a warm welcome.  Son of American parents, his dad is a marine biologist professor at the local university who did work, incidentally at UW Friday Harbor Lab. The mantle held urchins, sea stars, and pine cones.

After CEGEP, Quebec post highschool/precollege education program, Noah biked from Portland Oregon to El Salvador, short of his goal to return Chile, where his dad had a sabbatical when Noah was a kid. He was 19, solo, and on the road for 5 months. Now a mechanical engineering student now, Noah struck us a rather remarkable young human, with great parents. We felt at home.

So when the construction trucks started promptly at 7am, we were dismayed. We stuck our ear buds in, and went back to sleep.

In the morning we laid out the map of the Maritimes and with good Wi-Fi, attention, and sticky notes, we mapped out a good portion of the next two weeks. It feels good having little gems, like hosts and campground scenery, to look forward to.

Serendipity while traveling is among the top reasons I travel. That “right time right place” and “crossroads ” wonder. It could be a road sign with your middle name, a well timed shelter in a thunder storm, a selfie with similarly dressed strangers that later become hosts. It’s these that make the stories.

When I turned my phone on after crossing into Quebec city, I had two texts. One from Noah confirming our arrival.  The other from my cousin saying he was going to be in town for vacation, having figured out we’d be close from Facebook posts, asking to connect. What fun, especially since Bruce knows this area from having snow mobiled around it for a few years, and treated us to a favorite dinner. Thanks!

We explored this fabulous old French city with them.

The citadel guards impressed Irena, but we hardly impressed them.

And it is a bike trip, after all.

Stats:

10 miles biking to and from our host to old Quebec on borrowed bikes, (of course they were Peugeots)

310 stairs up to the promenade of the governor, with my cousin Bruce and Sue

4 delicious maple macaroons

Cobblestones, flower boxes, and heaps of tourists

Day 53: Along the St. Lawrence, a poem

Pierreville to Deschaillones-sur-St. Laurent, August 15

Dairy farms 

Wrinkled roof lines of retired barns

New barns and farm houses of many colors

Towns of hard to pronounce-hyphenated names

Too many dots on the map in the next few kilometers 

Another town, another church 

Another town, another lawn mower/weed walker

Rooflines like A line skirts, a flare at the edge, just enough to cover a porch 

Jesus in gazebos, a saint in a tub

Gas station lunch eaten at the park 

I know we are in another country, but which one again?

Steep hill down to the river camp ground 

Beers and cheers and chips and salsa as it rained, while we sheltered in a gazebo of our own 

Clear skies, sunset over the river, fire pits aglow

Rain on the tent wall plinked, because we set the fly so tight 


Stats:

64.65 miles, 100.19 km

7 dead frogs

Miles of road, or bike trail, to ourselves

Sometimes so quiet you could hear the crickets 

Surprise tall boys #heinken

 

Day 51 and some: Montreal Reunions 

Friends, food, French. Reunions. What could be better! 

Irena rolled in to Montreal Saturday late afternoon. Our reunion was a success!

So was the reunion with Nick and Daryl. They are dear friends from Seattle where they did their PhDs in astronomy and Daryl was my housemate for a year or so. I adore these two, and their son Henri. 

In my days with them, I attended a Canadian football game (the Allouettes play at McGill stadium, and Henri had summer sports camp there), learned more about Quebecois culture and schools, went school shopping, and ate and cooked well. Nick’s special biscuits and sugar pie are always tasty. 

Their urban lifestyle was fun to particpate in, especially ditching the car: walking to cafes, biking on the bike share BiXi (a brilliant portmanteau of bike and taxi), metro, cab, and bus. Montreal has interactive bus stations too, where one can call up weather, news, and bus times on a screen by waving your arms to control the “cursor”.

With Irena on Sunday, we explored the old city. We enjoyed the Brit with pug and frenchie avec poodle. Churches, cobblestones, and canals.


We ate well: first coffee and an iced tea of fresh oj with earl grey; then crepes with nutella and banana; then famous Schwartz deli, where Irena could not stop saying how awesome this smoked meat sandwich was. 

I enjoyed Montreal’s foodie culture too, with croisants, pudding chomér, beet soup in some hipster artsy spots. 

We took a cab to the top of Mt. Royal to catch the view of the city. 



 A warm and lovely dinner with friends. Merci mes amis.

Stats:

10 min bixi bike ride

Beautiful bike ways

We were reminded of smaller portions, and how much we eat.