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65km Woodstock to Bear Island

Posted September 19th, 2006

Our first cloudy day in ages dawned, but at least it wasn’t raining. The cool day was in some ways a bit of a relief from the constant heat, although the headwinds weren’t quite so welcome. We started what was probably the hilliest day of our tour yet.

It started out flat from Woodstock but quickly went uphill, then downhill, then up again, then down again…. our thighs were quite sore after just a couple hours of this! The bonus was seeing three deer cross the deserted road in front of us and great views of the river below.

Coming to the end of the 165 from Woodstock, we had to go on to the Trans Canada highway, but luck was on our side. Instead of tangoing with trucks and cars zipping past, we were able to nip on to a new highway they’re building but which is not quite open yet. Perfect for us though and we had four lanes all to ourselves, much to the surprise of the few construction workers on the road!

After a few kilometers of that, we crossed back over the river to Nackawic, a small town which thinks it’s big. “Shopping mall” the sign at the entrance to the town boasted. “Picnic Area”. “Two banks”. “World’s biggest axe”. How could we ignore this bustling metropolis??! In we went to the little town, which is really barely bigger than a village, and had lunch by what was indeed the world’s biggest axe. Carrying on after lunch, any hopes that the hills might be over were quickly dispelled. Instead, they became more frequent and steeper than before. We were stopping every few minutes to rest, our task made all the harder because the sun came out and it was once again a good 25 degrees.

Still, we keep reminding ourselves that even when the going is a bit tough, we could be sitting at our desks and there is no doubt that being outside, taking on a challenge you really relish beats the office every time!

Great Bear campground showed itself just in time. This time of year we were the only people there and so we got river views all to ourselves as we settled down for more of our books and supper.

63km Beechwood – Woodstock

Posted September 18th, 2006

Our 'wild' campsite, on the grounds of the Beechwood power plantwho's that.After a restful night’s sleep in the grounds of the Beechwood power station, we set out reasonably early. Did a bit of maintenance on our bikes before leaving though, as the dusty NB trail had really left its mark on our chain, gears, wheels. Everything was covered in a fine powder. I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t recommend this part of the trail, between Grand Falls and Woodstock. It’s a real disaster for all except maybe the hardened mountain biker who likes to tango with ATVs.

Taking to the roads, we encountered plenty of hills on the way to Woodstock, which was great for the downhill runs but going up them we were glad we’d started early before it got too hot. Our early start meant that a second breakfast sounded like a pretty good idea so we stopped for bagels and cream cheese and coffee at Tim Hortons in Florenceville.

Carried on and arrived around noon in Hartland, home to the world’s longest covered bridge, where we stopped for lunch. It was so nice we had a meal that would have fit perfectly in July, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from the local farm shop, cheese, bread and potato salad.

It was also scorching hot by this time, 26C, so as usual the last 20km or so were a bit of a killer. Thankfully we’ve found no shortage of friendly people to fill up our water bottles.

Stopped at a campground just outside Woodstock, on the banks of the Saint John river. The cost was $20/night. Wild camping is great for the money saving but sometimes you just want the ability to put your tent up at 3pm and relax, not to mention a hot shower in the morning and electricity to recharge the laptop and cameras.

Being on the banks of the river, we spent the afternoon watching the birds, inbetween chapters of our books. It was a very enjoyable way to pass the last few hours of the day before filling up on a supper of macaroni, tuna and a cheddar cheese sauce. We watched the sun set behind the hill across the river and then played cards till it was too dark to see. Heard the results of the NB election, Liberals oust the Tories!

68km, Grand Falls – Beechwood Power Station

Posted September 17th, 2006

A good hair dayLooking down to the power plantAwoke very early in the morning, probably because of where we’d camped and being hyper-aware of every sound and movement around us. After spending our money saved on a campground on a Tim Hortons breakfast (2 double doubles and 2 toasted bagels) we headed out on the rail trail towards Florenceville.

Alas, the rail trail wasn’t half as good as the one from Quebec to NB. They hadn’t put up barriers to stop ATVs from going on it and as a consequence it was ripped to shreds in many places, with rocks too big for us to navigate or loose gravel so thick we just slipped from side to side. A real shame since we’d seen how good such a trail could be for cyclists but it wasn’t long before we just hit the main road again.

Wound our way through mountains covered in changing fall colours on either side of us, with the Saint John river below. In Perth Andover, a small town with the river running right through it, we stopped for lunch and lots of people passing by asked what we were doing, where we were going. Most of them nodded, made ummms and ahhh sounds and then left with a look that seemed to say they didn’t quite believe our crazy plan, we must have been pulling their legs!

Lunch was couscous, broccoli and sausage. We are finding we can eat pretty cheaply yet very well out of grocery stores and with our little stove, spending about $15-20 a day on three fill-em-up meals and snacks inbetween. It is hard to work the veggies in sometimes, as it seems most things in Canada come in big quantities. You can’t get just one carrot, take a 2kg bag. You want two or three mushrooms? Nonsense, buy the whole pack.

We’d covered about 40km by lunch time but as always, the last 20km seems the hardest. Maybe it’s the heat, fatigue from the morning, headwinds that always seem to show up in the afternoon. By the time we’d reached the top of the third or so hill we were beat and out of water. But help always seems to show up where you need it and this time it was in the form of a friendly man washing his dog in his front yard. You can just tell when people will help, they always smile or wave and you know you’re among friends.

We stopped, chatted for a while about his trips on a mountain bike some years ago, and then asked if we could fill our water bottles from the garden hose. He gathered up the bottles and returned with them full a few minutes later, not just with water but with ice too. A real treat! We carried on, wondering where we’d camp.

We’d seen a few possibilities for wild camping but were still a bit short on water, having quaffed most of what the man had given us. For some reason we decided to try the trail again and it was there we lucked out for the second time in one day. We found not only a fast running stream where we could get water and wash off the sweat, but also grounds belonging to a power station. The perfect place to pitch our tent, with lots of trees for cover and very little passing traffic. So, here we are in the tent, just about to settle down for the night, listening to the brook babble by.

66km, Edmunston – Grand Falls

Posted September 16th, 2006

Friedel learns to ride a 'bent'Started out the day a bit late, after sleeping in at the campground, then using their wireless internet to update the site. Finally got on the road around 10am, braced for a very hilly ride to Grand Falls.

We had read many trip reports about Northern New Brunswick and expected it to be one hill after another, and steep ones too. Followed the 144 to Grand Falls and were surprised that it was remarkably flat, or what hills there were took the shape of lazy rolling climbs, nothing too strenuous.

Got tired towards the end of the day though, too much sunshine and amazinly hot weather for September. We have been getting highs of 25 degrees or so nearly every day. A long detour due to construction nearly finished us off but we learned the value of resting in the shade and, refreshed, we rolled into Grand Falls late in the afternoon.

Went to the tourist bureau to find a place to camp and ran into a guy on a recumbent, Carl. We started chatting and the next thing we knew we were having beers, talking about all his travels through places like Guatamala, Morocco and across Canada on a bike. He suggested we just camp on the grounds of the tourist bureau so we got brave and got our first taste of wild camping. Well, it wasn’t really wild camping as we weren’t the best hidden, but we found a flat little spot away from most of the traffic and set up the tent about 9:30pm. Not long afterwards some kids came along. “Oh, look, bicycles!” one shouted. “Oh boy, here we go,” we thought, anticipating trouble and laying very still in our tent. But nothing, they came and went a few minutes later. About two hours later the same thing but no one bothered us, amazingly.

We were encouraged to try this wild camping again.

56km Notre Dame du Lac to Edmunston

Posted September 15th, 2006

* WPG2 Plugin Not Validated ** WPG2 Plugin Not Validated *Started the day by continuing down the rail trail, which is about 132km overall. The south half of the trail really didn’t live up to the standard set by the north half though, which was better signed, in better condition and had more facilities. The lower bit of the trail was partly paved but this meant the frost and thaw of winter and spring had ripped parts of it up, so there were a lot of cracks and bumps to navigate. It also often followed the Trans Canada highway pretty closely so none of the great views from the days before. Tourist information at the NB border were very helpful though and gave us maps for cycle trails between Grand Falls and Woodstock, also on old rail lines, so that was nice. Now we just have to navigate our way to Grand Falls / Grand Sault tomorrow, which could be full of big hills! Ended up at a great little campground just outside Edmunston for the night — Iroquois River Campground — which has very friendly owners, who let us use their phone free to order pizza, and free wireless internet of all things! We never thought we’d find that in a campground and we’ve certainly been making very good use out of it. Hope to hit Fredericton on Wednesday, where we’ll visit one of Friedel’s good friends from university.