Copyright (c) 1997 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.
Chapter 44 - Aug 25 to Sep 7, 1997 Sherbrooke, NS to Woodstock, NB Canada 27,668 KM (17,154 MI) cumulative
Sherbrooke village, a town with a whopping population of only a few hundred, has managed to turn about half itself into very interesting museum. Quite literally. There is a fence blocking off the street in the middle of town and you are expected to pay the $6 admission to go on further. Within the fence you'll find a living history style museum where each building is not only original but also standing in it's original location. Back in the 1960s the town was falling apart. Half the buildings had been abandoned and were rapidly decaying into the bush. Someone came up with the idea to turn these old buildings into a museum that shows some of the typical activities of a town from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Now, several decades later, it's a large complex with over 100 employees and continuing to expand with the addition of a hike to the site of a nearby French fort and the future reconstruction of a small shipyard.
We started our tour at the old hotel which is now a restaurant serving light lunches. It's housed in a small white building that today would be considered appropriate for a B&B. Across the front was a long veranda upon which stood a reproduction tall wheeled velociped supported in a stand. We just had to climb aboard and give it a try. Brian fit quite well. But with it's 4 ft front wheel diameter, my feet barely touched the pedals when they were in the horizontal position. Clearly I would have needed a much smaller version. Next stop was a long, narrow building housing the original post office in one half and a printing shop in the other. Interestingly this post office operated as late as the 1960s was run for over 100 years by the same family. I guess the government gave the first man the job and he then handed it down to his sons and daughters. Not the way a post office selects its employees today. They had a neat old phone, one of those wooden box types with the separate ear and mouth pieces. We were told it actually works, or at least worked until some construction in the town cut the wires accidentally. They're still looking for all the breaks.
In the printer shop we found another long gigham dress clad woman pumping away on this most odd looking printing press. I always recall the older printing presses that were huge corkscrew contraptions that were manually wound down to press two horizontal halves together. Not very efficient. This was an automated version of the same thing. The printing plate was held vertically. Above was this circular metal pad on which ink is spread. Pump the foot pedal and a roller would roll up on the pad, pick up ink, then roll forward and down to spread ink on the print plate. The plate having the page to be printed then goes back to press against the print plate with some pretty high pressure we were told. What a vast improvement in speed. She could easily finish a good 20 pages each hour with this method. She had examples of printing plates used to make the fancy designs. The old ones were mere molded lead. An artist would carve a wood mold, lead would be poured in, and you'd get your printing block. The new ones have lead covering a wood block, lighter and cheaper to make.
A little further down we entered the pharmacy. Shelves were filled with the usual variety of bottles the glass yellowed with age and the labels indicating contents virtually unreadable. Under the counter were boxes with such confidence inspiring names as Dr Campbell's Liver Pills, or Family Pills, or Heart Pills, reputed to cure anything from headaches to consumption but probably little more than a plecebo. In back were more of our costumed guides busily mxing, grinding, and pounding. They were making a 19th century hand cream from such ingredients as bees wax and lanolin oil. Trying a sample it seemed about as good as anything you can get today in a cosmetics department.
Next door was the home of the town physician, surgeon, dentist, and acoucher (pediatrician). This was the time whan the doctor had his office in half of his house and a good portion of his time was spent traveling through the outlying area making the now rare "house call". Conditions in the surgery looked so primitive compared to today's brightly lit, chrome and plastic filled OR.
The town store held an assortment of glassware, brooms, boxes, baskets, cloth, rope, toys, shoes, and almost anything else you'd need for a well stocked household of 1900. Upstairs, however, was one of the few amphrodyte photo studies in the world still operating. This is the kind of photography where silver oxid is placed on a sheet of glass and then exposed to light. For a fee, and 1/2 hour time, you could get a true amphrodyte photo of yourself, at least normally. The photographer and her assistant were having problems getting good shots lately attributable to, they think, expired chemicals. So there were no photos coming on this particular day.
We stopped into the potters shop just in time to watch a woman spinning a lump of clay on a potter's wheel deftly turning it into a reproduction pot. I found it fascinating to watch how just the slight pressure of the hands would take a short squat blob, elongate it, add a hole in the middle, thin the walls, add a slight bulge at the top, and then add the gracefully curled lip on top. It almost looks like magic. The pot would be left to dry for a week, dipped in glaze, clear or black, and then fired. Pieces available for sale in the museum gift shop, of course.
Other interpreted buildings included the jail, half of which was the jailer's home, cottages representing a middle class and wealthy family, courthouse in which cases are still heard, a small boat shop where a flat bottomed river punt was under construction, a wood workers shop where we found a man sanding away at what was to become a wooden spoon, a temperance hall with displays about the roll of rum not only in politics and social life but in the military, a sawmill, and the usual blacksmith shop. In all there are some 26 buildings open to the public and in every single one you find least one of those costume clad employees. We concluded that there must be a fair amount of government financial support as it didn't seem as though the attendance could cmake it self sufficient. It was very well done and well worth stopping for the morning even though that meant a long afternoon ride.
>From Sherbrooke we took off on one of those little, light gray lines representing the country roads on our map. This took us directly across the island to the town of Pictou. This was one quiet road. We rolled up and down hills, mostly up at first as we headed for the backbone of the penninsula. The hills on both sides of the road were covered with a thick almost carpet looking forest of small green pines. Another one of those managed forests that at first glance look natural but on closer inspection don't look quite right. The trees are too dense and all the same size. It's hard to look at so un-natural a forest without some feelings of grief for the virgin forests of old. But we always have to remember these are simply farms, tree farms, harvested on a regular basis just as we harvest a field of corn. And until man can come up with a real replacement for wood and paper products we will continue to need these farms.
Our last day of riding in Nova Scotia was an easy, relaxed downhill to New Glasglow, a quick stop at the WalMart to buy suppies, and then a quick 16 km to Pictou. Pictou was founded in 1773 and is the original landing location for the Scotish. Consequently the town is quick to take advantage of its Scotish heritage for the tourist industry. Teenagers dressed in traditional kilts take up positions at various locations in town or out at the ferry port playing bag pipes. Some are pretty good. Others ... well I understand they are quite difficult to play well enough to not sound like a duck in heat. There's a few small museums in Pictou that we decided to forego, having seen quite a few museums over the past few weeks. Instead we took a stroll along the quay and admired the construction of the replica of the full square rigged vessel Hecter. Hecter was the boat that brought the original Scotish to Nova Scotia. Building was quite far along. The keel and ribs having been laid, planking the outside was well under way. Someday this new vessel will be plying the very same waters of her namesake, this time taking tourists on their own voyage of discovery.
We spent the night out at the Caribou Provincial Park. Much to our amazement the park was nearly empty. Taking a quick survey of other campers in residence, we counted a mere 4 other sites occupied. Now as the evening wore on a few more showed up. But in our entire section we were all alone. Naturally I proceeded to take over most of the picnic tables in sight, one for our kitchen, one for leaning the bikes, one for airing the sleeping bags, and another to wash up at. It's not often in summer you can lay claim to so many tables and I wasn't about to miss the opportunity. Unfortunatly we may have dicovered part of the reason the campground was so vacent. During the night the wind shifted from being from the water to being from land. With it came the stale, sour odor from the local pulp factory. Smelling the fumes from a pulp factory is unpleasant even for just a few moments much less an entire night. I simply couldn't imagine living near one and having this smell all the time. It seems to me the pulp and paper industry is one area where some serious air scrubbing filter development is sorely needed.
The next morning we hopped aboard the ferry and headed for Prince Edward Island, called PEI by the locals. The last time I visited PEI was with my family on one our family vacations. I was 13 years old. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldren were making their preparations to become the first humans to set foot on another world. I recall that vacation starting out with one day of lovely, sunny skies. We were camped at the beach and had a great day playing and clam digging. But that was the last we saw of the sun. It started raining and simply did not quit for days. My parents gave up and left the island as there is not much there to keep three bored teenage girls happy when it's raining. My memories of the island are gray skies, cold winds, and water, water, water. So the purpose of returning to the island at this time is to find out if it ever doesn't rain on PEI.
We were not disappointed. Arriving on one of the finest days we've seen in weeks we simply pulled into the nearest provincial park and set up for the day. Located right on the bay of Newfoundland, our campsite had spectacular views across the grassy beach and bright blue waters of the bay. We pulled in, got showers, and did laundry in perhaps the first laundromat I've seen right in a provincial or state park. As an introduction to PEI, we couldn't have picked a better day.
PEI is quite a pastoral island. It's generally flat, only a few low rolling hills to break up the monotonous flatness. Apart from the tourist Cavandish area, nicknamed "Anneland" as this is the setting for the Ann of Green Gables books, it is filled with farms producing wheat, oat, barley, and lots of potatoes. This is the potato growing capital of Canada. It's quite odd to see this rolling expanse of farmland butting right upon the Gulf of St. Lawrence waters. Along the interior roads we debated, was this more like Ohio or Indiana. Indiana won. There are a gazillion roads going everywhere, far more roads than you'd believe the population of the island could ever want or need. Most paved, but many a very good red clay surface. Every one, even the major routes, made for great bike riding as traffic only picked up ever so slightly near towns. Everywhere else traffic was real light. And if even one car every 15 minutes is too much, there are bike/hike only paths. Over the past several yeas PEI has been cnverting several of its old rail beds to trails as its contribution to the TransCanada trail system. Trails on each end of the island have been completed. Only the center section remains. So you can really get away from traffic and enjoy an essentially hill free ride if you so desire.
Fall flowers were abloom everywhere. Bright golden rod, pink fireweeds, white tufts of some plant I don't recognize filled any natural opening in the dense forest and lined both edges of the bike trail. I thought of it as a trail of gold. Riding along the trail I always picture what it was like when only trains frequented the outlying areas of the island. All those new paved roads didn't exist. Passing through a narrow corridor of trees and flowers, suddenly a break in the vegetation appears and you're in town. I think I may have enjoyed living in the days when the rails were king in the transporaton world. Rails and sailing ships that is.
Unfortunatly PEI's fickle weather personality was not going to let us have a trouble free visit. After 2 1/2 days of cloudy mornings giving way to sunny afternoons, the rain came. It rained and rained all day long, just as I remembered those many rainy days so long ago. Not a quick thundershower. Noooo. Just a day long continual miserable hard drizzle. We were fortunate to have found ourselves in a campground with a comfortable kitchen shelter. So we simply settled in for the day and waited.
The rain abated for a short while the next day giving us just enough time to ride to Prince Edward Island Nationa Park, in between short bursts of rain that is. The wind was light and hills nonexistant so we managed to get into the park reasonably early even after riding over 80 km. The key feature of PEI Nat'l Park are its incredible beaches. Miles and miles of sandy beach covered with red, red sands. A bit further north the sandy beaches turn into red cliffs, a brilliant rusty hue sandwiched between the blue ocean waters and dense green forests. Sand dunes covered in the moramm grasses lined the beaches looking vunerable to the ever advancing ocean waves. As I'd so often seen in San Diego, the sand sloped steeply toward the water giving way to rocks the further out it got. It's the shape beaches seem to take on as the currents shift for winter and the waves move the sand to someplace else.
Amazingly even though it was the middle of the Labor Day weekend the beaches were nearly deserted. Of the three park campgrounds one had closed weeks earlier, one was on its last night, and the third had perhaps only 20% occupancy. Clearly beach season had already come to a close. But, where were all those cars that franticlly passed us as we approached the park. We discovered them outside the park gates at a small strip mall where the shops on the verge of closing for the season were havinng big sales. Big signs boasted of "50% off everything in stock" trying to entice those last few customers for the season in the doors. We found this scene far too apalling and chose to return to the park for a good 8km hike through local wheat fields, another 2 km stroll down the beach, and a night listening to the radio.
Summer came to a close with the sunset on Labor Day Monday. The few remaining crowds packed up and left leaving the campgrounds to the retired couples and us. But, it was also time for us to head for Quebec and Montreal for the last leg of this summer's riding. So on Tuesday we rose early and started the 500 mile trek across PEI and New Brunswick. Crossing PEI took us over several rolling hills covered with PEI's famous potatoe farms. Not having seen potatoe plants we had to stop for a closer look. They're not a bad looking plant, big heart shaped leaves and tiny white flowers with yellow centers. As we all know the business part of a potatoe occurs underground so there's not much else to see. Leaving the island we had the opportunity to cross via the brand new, just opened June 1st, bridge, but not on bike. At 14km (9 miles) of length over nothing but water it is the longest bridge in the world. There's actually one longer somewhere in Denmark but it hits an island in it middle so doesn't count. The authorities have made the decision not to allow pedstrians or bikers on the bridge. So a free van shuttle is provided. Leaving once every hour it has a nice large trailer set up to carry about 6 unloaded bikes, maybe 3 loaded bikes. It actually worked out well for us. Passage on the ferry was free since we were coming onto the island, passage off via the bridge was also free. Cars have to pay from $35 to $45 depending upon whether they take the bridge or ferry off.
Every single time we have found ourselves riding up in the northern regions in September we find the weather goes from summer to fall virtually overnight. That first cold front comes through causing temperatures to dive to the basement and the leaves start to look more and more yellow. Spots of gold, orange, and red peek out thrugh the forest of green of the surrounding hillsides. This year was no exception except that perhaps the cold was a little earlier and colder. A mere 3 days after the start of September the familiar exaggerated S shaped jet stream pattern caused by the El Nino formed bringing the first Canadian cold front roaring down from the north. We were riding along the New Brunswick coast in a balmy 22 deg. C looking toward the west where charcoal gray clouds loomed omniously. We kept riding. Suddenly the sky burst forth with thunder, lightening, and buckets of rain. Taking refuge under the eve of an abandoned building's roof we waited out the worst. Hugging against the wall we stayed almost, but not quite dry. It poured and in no more than 1/2 hour the temperature plunged to 16, 15, 14. After the brunt of the front had passed we carried on. But, in our hearts we knew, this was the end of warm evenings going without a jacket, more and more of these fronts will soon follow, and the first frost was not too far off. Sigh, summer always seems far too short.
We managed to make it to the town of Muncton in a reasonably dry condition. It was our destination for the evening, a nice hotel with restaurant and indoor pool in which to spend our 14th anniversary. The hotel was in sight, the off ramp from the road just a mere 100 yards ahead, and the skies opened up once more as if Mother Nature were laughing in our faces, "Ah Ha and you thought you'd make it in time. Fooled you." It's truly incredible just how sopping wet one can get riding just 100 yards in a downpour. It's also incredible just how wonderful a warm, dry hotel room can feel after getting sopping wet in that downpour.
After our brush with fall weather we had a few days of sunny, but cool weather and then a gradual warming getting back to comfortable riding once again. But, Mother Nature was not done with us yet. Not on your life. She threw at us headwinds. Day after day of headwinds. 10, 20, 30 knot headwinds. If we rode toward the northeast, the wind was out of the northeast. If we rode toward the northwest, the wind was out of the northwest. Yet we pushed on each and every day. Time was getting short. We needed to be in Cazenovia, NY by Oct 8 and to have some time to visit Montreal and Quebec we had to get across New Brunswick as quickly as possible. Which meant riding every day into those blasted headwinds. We were pooped, but continued on and on.
Fortunatly the scenery helped make the ride difficult but tolerable. Once we hit the town of Fredrickton we started riding alongside the St. Johns river. A wide, slow moving river that gently winds its way north parallel to the Canada/U.S. border. It reaches deep into the heart of New Brunswick almost to the Quebec province line. The St. Johns has been a major transportation corridor into the Canadian interior since the beginning of settlement. First boats, then the railroad, and now highways. TransCanada route 2 hugs one bank and Rt 105 the other, switching places when convenient and necessary. We understand the St Johns was used to open the interior of New Brusnwick to settlement. Although "settlement" seems to mean only the land along the river banks itself. Looking at our map we see that there are virtually no towns and no roads for that matter along the direct line between the river and the ocean.
With the long ago abandonment of the rail road the rail bed is now undergoing conversion to a multiuse trail, hiking, biking, horse riding, X-country skiing, and snowmobiling. It's to be part of the TransCanada trail which is planned to go from coast to coast and even up to Invunik. Completion date hoped to be in the year 2000. We happened to see a TV special about the trail during one of our hotel visits and were very impressed with their progress and their backing. Chrysler Canada for one. They started only in 1995, 96 and already have completed many hundreds of miles. Just imagine, a completely separate trail going for thousands of miles from one coast to the other. Why can't they do something similar in the U.S. Surely the old rail beds exist. It's probably just a matter of money, backing, interest, and time. We do believe it will happen, someday. A dream to hope for.
Appendix A - Route
Rt 348 to New Glasglow, Rt 104 & 106 to PEI ferry
Rt 4 from Wood Islands to Murry River, Rt 17 to Montague, Rt 4 to Pooles Corner, Rt 3 to Brudenell Prov Park, Rts 312, 4, and 313 to St Peters, Confederation rail/trail to Mount Stewart, Rt 2 tpo Tracadie Cross, Rt 219 to Mill Cove, Rt 6 to PEI National Park, PEI park route to Rt 15 to Brackley Beach, Rt 6 to North Rustico, PEI Naitonal Park route to Cavendish, Routes 6, 254, 111, 1A to Borden-Carleton, Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick
Rt 955 to Rt 2 to Moncton, Rt 2 to Fredricton, Rt 2 to Woodstock
Appendix B - Campsites and hotels
Elm Glenn Campground near New Glasglow ($), Caribou Provincial Park near Pictou ($)
Northumberland Provincial Park ($), Brudenell Provincial Park ($), St Peters Park 2 nights ($), PEI Nat'l Park Cavendish campground 2 nights ($)
Murry Beach Prov. Park ($), Keddy Motor Inn Moncton ($), Lone Pine Campground Penobsquis ($), Lakeside Prov. Park ($), Hartt Island Park at Fredricton ($), Atlantic Inns at Woodstock ($)
($) indicates fee camping
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.