I’ve had the idea for some years to ride around the province on a bicycle.
I started out in 2021 going down to Fundy Park and Alma, that was very tough with all the hills. I live near Fredericton and, the first day, I made it somewhere past Alma. I admit, too far in one day. The next day, around Hillsborough, I almost got run off the road by some kids in a pick-up truck who seemed to play chicken with my pool noodle. I have been sticking it out the left side of the bicycle “for safety.” This incident freaked me out enough that I just biked to Moncton and took the bus back to Fredericton.
Afterwards, I got some encouragement to continue, as the Eastern part of the province would be less busy and more level biking.
I started this year again on June 20th and made it in one day to Saint Louis-de-Kent, a bit of a long, rainy day with the wind against me. Disorganized as I am, I had a hard time finding lodging at the end of the day. I also had a blown tire but this was not an old tire. They just don’t make ’em as they used to; the best tires are the ones I find in the garbage or on old bicycles that were bought 30 years ago with good intentions but have hardly been used.
Next, I biked one day around Kouchibouguac National Park: very beautiful, quiet and restful rides and a stroll along the beach.
The next day I went to Miramichi where I visited a niece, her husband and their new baby. It was very nice to see them. I left my tent and sleeping bag there as I had decided to stay in B&Bs and motels; I wasn’t going to set up and sleep in a tent in rain and bad weather, although that limited the choice of overnighting a bit.
The next day was a beautiful sunny day with the wind at my back and I made it all the way to Miscou Island. That is all beautiful country and, from Shippagan onward, one follows paved trails. I relied much on Google Maps but, outside of the Acadian Peninsula, if you choose the suggested bicycle route, the system sends you down trails on old rail lines that have been thoroughly ruined by four-wheelers and are very uncomfortable and slow to ride on. Normally, they should be easier, with less steep inclines and declines, and away from traffic.
The flowers along the roads and trails were stunning; the lupins were in full bloom, especially up north, but also the daisies, buttercups, vetch and others. In yards with fragrant roses and lilacs, I noted and appreciated the efforts put into the home gardens.
Since the tire blow-out, just past Minto, I had been on the look-out for a new spare tire. But, I have an old ten-speed and tires for it are hard to find. People experience bicycles the same way as cars or kitchen interiors; new models and designs come out all the time and consumerism dictates that we buy new. In the case of cars, they also rust out and become beyond repair. Very little can be improved upon with a 10-speed as a road bicycle and everything that can wear out can be repaired or replaced: tires, chains, sprocket sets, spokes, rims, all of it. I think my bike is about 40 years old but it is basically as good as new. Anyway, I scored a new tire just past Bathurst.
One thing that baffled me while biking around is the amount of traffic that seems to be aimlessly driving around or for sports or because of nothing better to do: recreational vehicles, motorcycles and other toys. The acres and acres of lawn mowed and weeds whacked were surprising: all powered by gasoline and other fossil fuels.
Another thing was the garbage along the road. It seems that “Bud Light” is the preferred beer of folks who throw cans out of their car, although containers of all descriptions are found —from ubiquitous Tim Hortons cups to remnants of happy meals (teach ’em young!). I can’t believe that people who see the unsightly garbage on or in the side of the road decide to add to it. Thinking it provides a chance for people in need to make some extra cash isn’t a good one! Just keep it in your car, give it to someone looking for empties, redeem them and donate to a cause of your choice.
We may be way past the turning point to climate disaster and action should be taken to minimize social upheaval when the Irving refinery closes, the ensuing clean-up and the changes that will need to be made. But, I don’t see any meaningful change so it’s going to be bad.
From Campbellton, I turned south to Saint Quentin. I had a nice wind in the back out of the north-east although the forecast was wind out of the south. Well, that changed when I topped the first big hill, the wind was out of the south then. I don’t know if it is the time of year but the wind direction seemed to change much and often, perhaps that is why the forecast is often wrong and predicts only a day in advance.
From Saint Quentin, I fulfilled my provincial patriotic duty (outside of biking around the province) and climbed Mount Carleton. That was a nice hike with great views, including of the great clearcuts New Brunswick is known for (although the clearcuts I encountered last year up to and even into Fundy Park were at least as disturbing).
From there, I followed the Wolastoq down, close to the Maine border where I lived with my parents on a farm, much has changed and much is the same. Another day later, I made it to Canterbury. From there, it was very quiet, with some unpaved country roads down to Deer Island and Campobello. I like islands and I didn’t visit the mansion (called a cottage) of the former foreign president.
The next day, I biked home.
Fourteen days and about 1,400 km on the road! Some people may think it is quite an achievement but I am far from Superman or even an athlete; it didn’t even take that much determination. Just keep those pedals cranking around.
A note to other road users: always be nice to see other cyclists, for all the reasons of them being on the road, sports, whether it’s exercise, a new fad or just to get where they’re going. Many car drivers give you a wide berth, as required by law, or slow down behind you with oncoming traffic before passing, even some big transports. But, some seem just frustrated that bicycles are even on the road and roar right by you. Then, there is distracted driving; on the first day between Oromocto and Burton I got nearly clipped by someone on their phone who jerked away from the side of the road after nearly creaming me and hearing me swear at their inattention.
If someone wants to do the same or similar trip, or any other trip you have in mind, to work, to shop, for leisure or visit friends, go for it! Consider if it can be done on foot or by bicycle, or if it is necessary at all. Be as organized or unorganized as you’re comfortable with!
On a personal note: thank you to Jenn and Andrea for watering my greenhouse! Thank you to all the people of the places I stayed, who advised on where to go, where to stay and how to keep my bicycle on the road.