Setting out in the Maritimes

Exploring our own country
It not what we’ve become used to! Thousands of kilometres away, yet still familiar in terms of languages and culture. It reminds us both of the Eastern Townships, where the summers are lovely and winters harsh. Only it’s been a very wet summer here, and I’m in the tent listening to steady rain as I write. Chris says it reminds him of rural England. Chris has never been to the Maritimes, and I haven’t been here since I was 19, when I rode here from Montreal on my very first self-organized bike trip.

2011-07-20: Fly to Moncton and ride 1.5km to Hotel
Our neighbours were kind enough to drive us to the airport with our boxed bikes. Thank you John and Sue! It was a retro experience to walk out onto the runway at Dorval, and up the steps of a Dash 8 for the flight to Moncton, but small is fun and friendly; we were seated separately, each with interesting seatmates. We assembled our bikes at the airport after midnight. As we set off for our hotel at 1:00 a.m., an airport employee struck up a conversation and wanted to be sure we knew where we were headed. When I commented that people talked to each other more readily here than in Vancouver, he responded “Hey! It’s a good thing you’re not in Newfoundland!” What he meant was that it will get even friendlier.

2011-07-21: 36km to Shediac
We’d left our bikes outside the hotel with only a minimalist lock. When we’d asked where to park “our bikes” for the night,  at first we’d been pointed towards a row of  motorcycles. I would have had reservations about leaving the bikes outside a hotel in other cities, but we were reassured it would be fine in Moncton. A short ride in the company of a chatty and welcoming Acadian brought us to Carol’s parents’ cottage in Shediac, on the New Brunswick coast. We were a bit jet lagged and happy to rest on their porch till they arrived home from work. An interesting evening of conversation and a multi-course vegan dinner ensued. Meanwhile, our respective daughters were battling it out at the Canadian Orienteering Championships in the Yukon.

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Confederation Bridge at ~8km of the 13km length. Note the cars on raised span about 1km away.

2011-07-22: 103km to Bonshaw
After Bobbie and David left for work, we went to the pier for free WiFi, and learned from nephew Daniel that his brother, Philip, was in Shediac on a road trip with his wife and small daughter. While it was nice to know, I didn’t believe we had any hope of finding them. However, we rode off towards PEI and within five minutes came a shout of “Margo! Chris!” It was Philip, Dominique, and Desirée, on their road trip from their home in the Eastern Townships in my sister’s (P’s mother’s) van. They were on the hunt for a beach, and headed for PEI, moving faster than we were. We exchanged cell phone numbers.

It was a pretty long day for our first real day on the road in some time. We were both a bit jet-lagged, and I was still surfacing from a South American amoeba and attempted treatment thereof. We were shuttled across the Confederation Bridge along with another pair of cyclists and a few pedestrians, and I launched into “I’m Bud the Spud from the bright red mud…”as we rode past vast fields of potatoes. The soil really is red here. Bright red! Neither of us had ever been to PEI, and it really is a gorgeous gentle landscape. I wish we could have spent longer there!

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In Marion´s Garden

We’d discovered that Andy’s parents, Marion and Tony, are Warmshowers hosts, and had contacted them. They were meeting a group of friends they know through Servas in nearby Desable for dinner, and they invited us to join them. This made for a long day, but we arrived late, quite soggy, and very appreciative of a delicious dinner prepared mostly by an Italian couple and which included local mussels and homemade wine. Grazie! After the evening wrapped up with Tony playing his guitar and leading a round of singing, which included custom lyrics just for us. I think that Tony, like me, believes firmly there is a song for every occasion! We were driven back to Tony and Marion’s, with our bikes strapped to the back of their car. It was only a short ride, but navigating may have been tricky in the dark. We settled comfortably after a solar heated shower.

2011-07-23: 88km to St. Peter’s Bay Campsite with nephew Philip and Family
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In the morning we called Philip to find out where he and his family were. We decided to ride to their campsite at St. Peter’s Bay, near the northeastern tip of PEI. As we set out, I first  realized that I was minus my gloves, and later that I was minus my rain jacket. So much for getting across Asia; I can’t even organize my way across Canada’s smallest province! These were located in the house in Desable, and returned to us from a car as we entered Charlottetown. Phew!

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After lunch at the farmers’ market at Marion’s suggestion, we got onto the Centennial Trail, a converted railbed. It was pretty, with a lush growth of ferns, fireweed and wild roses on either side, and glimpses through gaps in forest and hedgerows to fields of cereal crops or pastureland. The downside was the heat and the deerflies which settled when we stopped. We moved back onto the road for the final stretch, and bought dinner ingredients which included a two pound bag of farmed mussels

We found Philip and company, and had a pleasant evening. Just as Philip started a campfire, a strong wind and rainstorm hit, scattering our gear everywhere and causing us to retreat quickly to out tents as we gathered and secured things. A la prochaine rencontre tres bientot.

M

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