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Is the Chocolate River actually made out of chocolate??? Day 15!

Home for the night: Hopewell Cape, just outside of the Hopewell Rocks park

Distance: 70.8 km

Weather: sunny and clear as a bell! Northerly breeze all day.

B: oatmeal supreme, coffee

L#1: apples, ground cherries, almond butter L#2: variety store microwaveable burrito, two babybell cheeses and a strawberry frozen yogurt

D #1: the best homemade chocolate cake that ever existed

D #2: a magical Italian creation that I don't remember the name of, but picture a giant ball of rice with a melted chunk of havarti in the middle, baked....and then FRIED, given to me covered in homemade pesto.....!!@$&&!#

 

headwind half the day

I can see where I'll be soon!!

tailwind take me home

 

I woke from a very deep sleep to a brilliantly sunny morning with a dew so heavy on the ground it probably felt like a rainfall to the plants. The sun shone on a maple that was at the edge of the creek, lighting up the orangey gold foliage like a torch. It signalled to me how far into calendar we are along with the deep drop in temperature last night.


I stretched, made breakfast and took the gift of a picnic table in the sun to write in my journal for awhile. I have, and always will prefer writing on paper over typing. Running out of ink takes way longer than running out of charge...and in the case of the pen, you can just grab your trusty, stumpy pencil.


Feeling pretty grimy

I went in search for a splashable place in the creek. Happily, I discovered a perfect spot deep enough for a full plunge! Fresh water swimming!!!! Hooray! I love to swim so much, and it's been surprising how little I've done on this trip so far. The tide is either waaaaaay out or the creeks are reduced to a measley trickle from the dry summer. This was a real treat!!


This was the most alone time I feel like I had had in awhile and I savoured the stillness by my encampment, taking time to process some of what I had learned/experienced so far on this section of my trip. As my father likes to say, "planetary alignment" sent me in search of good digging in the forest, with lots of space and distance from trails and waterways.


Survival rule number two: if you're ever lost in the woods, have a poop and the first person you have seen in almost 24 hours will turn up with their dog out of nowhere. The dog will likely find you faster than their human and be very excited about finding a person at dog level, squatted in the forest!! The human will then frantically call their dog off of whatever it has found in the bushes repeatedly, even though they can't see themselves. Threatening to come into the bushes (oh please no!!!!!!) to drag the dog out at the last minute the dog says goodbye, trotting away to report their findings. Deep undergrowth has never been such a gift. Phew!


Getting on the road I felt far more energized than yesterday. A solid sleep was exactly what I needed and the day was gorgeous! Beautiful meadows, high rolling hills and absolutely stunning views of the Memramcook and Petitcodiac river valleys merging and the ridge separating them. Sometimes I don't even try to take pictures, preferring a mental and physical memory of soaking in the view while whizzing down a hill. Sometimes it feels like the whole world is laid out in front of me and it is magic.

I even saw a few other cyclists out for saturday rides...looking very fresh and perky on their whippy little roadbikes, carrying no more than themselves, a patch kit and 2 lbs of spandex. We all knew it was a great day to be out! The fellow who passed me from behind smiled, waved and said "Bon voyage!". He disappeared at mach four, out of sight before I could shift gears. Hahaha


The part of New Brunswick I found myself in was delightfully French. Telephone poles were painted to look like the Acadian flag and snippets of French radio and conversation found my ears as I rolled along through small towns. I had see signs for a farm market and having not eaten any fresh produce in quite some time I was very happy to drift into a small U-Pick farm to grab two apples and a pint of ground cherries! They struck me as hardy fruit for a bike pannier and I gobbled up half of them before gently stuffing them into my bag.


As I made it to the eastern shore of the Petitcodiac and headed north towards Dieppe and Moncton the breeze got much stronger. It was certainly more work, but you can't always have a tailwind! I realized how used to the wide open flats of the intertidal marshland and fields I had become when biking through a section of shaded, mature hardwood trees. What a different feeling!! Large sugar maples and dense understory was something I hadn't seen really since hiking in Chignecto. Even then, the trees aren't that huge in the park. It was a nice change (and break from the wind).


I could see the Dieppe water tower and I was pretty excited! That meant I would be getting close to Moncton, which also meant I would be at the northernmost part of my route, having worked my whole way to this place along the windy, crooked shores for 15 days! I could have driven it in 3 hours...but that would make for a pretty boring blog :)


Wind, wind, wind. More cars than before. Wind, wind wind.....and I couldn't help but think I would soon(ish) be on the opposite shore of the river biking allllll the way back in the same direction I had come from. I could see where I would be, and vice versa I would be able to see where I had been. Fresh out of lunch stuff I pulled into a teeny tiny variety store for some good ol' fashioned cycle touring hunter-gathering. It's always an adventure and sometimes it feels a bit like a museum exhibit! Not that those pre-packaged pink jelly rolls, "passion cakes" (what the hell is a passion cake?!) and honey buns are THAT old. On the other hand, they might be....and you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.


I steered clear of all the weird sugary convenience food, it's always given me the creeps. I pulled a frozen yogurt out of the freezer and a moment later I realized I had absentmindedly started eating it while continuing my search for hapless prey in the back aisles. Oops. Three varieties of singly-wrapped frozen burritos caught my attention at the same time as a microwave came into view. OH YEAH!!! I happily ate my yogurt while watching my little calorie bomb spin in circles in the magical box that would give me a hot lunch!


DING! I grabbed my food, spotted a basket of babybell cheese rounds in a fridge and politely only took two. Mainly because they were $1.50 each, and my restraint was more motivated by economics. I went to the till, apologetically showing the wrapper and wooden stick of the popsicle to the young woman working and paid for my haul.


That burrito didn't stand a chance and the hot beans and cheese were exactly what I needed! I briefly contemplated going back for a second, it was pretty small after all, but opted for getting back on the bike in search for the gravel trail that would take me through Moncton along the river.


I have driven through Moncton at least 3 billion times, no exaggeration :) and like most towns or cities, their highway side isn't always their pretty side. I don't even think I knew Moncton was on a riverbank to be perfectly honest! Being a beautiful Saturday afternoon all sorts of folks were out biking, walking and taking in the sights along the trail. It felt amazing to be part of the colour, right along with older ladies and their jogging suits, super marathon runners and little kiddos with training wheels and streamers on their handlebars. There were interpretive signs, picnic tables and restful spaces galore! Seeing the face of Moncton's core appear was more than I expected...I had the feeling that I was being drawn into an important place where much connects, transfers and exchanges. Even historically I imagined the first peoples of this land, travelling the rivers and shores like we do the roads now.


View from the bridge over the Peticodiac!!!

At long last, I made it to the BRIDGE!!!! The very bridge that would take me over the river I had been cycling along for the entire day, to the other side!!! From here on out, it felt like I would suddenly be making my way home, and getting to my friend's house in Riverside Albert would mark my halfway point, at least energetically. I would be with them tomorrow night and I couldn't believe it!


Yippppeeee!!!!!

Regionally called "The chocolate river" because of the muddy water, it is very much not made out of chocolate! If it were, the entire Bay of Fundy is and the shorebirds have the right idea, feeding on the beach!


Finding many a hill to climb and busy roads with no shoulders. Guess what Hillsborough, New Brunswick is like?!? Yep, sort of exactly like "Pancake Hill" back near Parrsboro. The day was getting on and I really wanted to make it as close to the Hopewell Rocks as possible for a full day of exploration tomorrow. Feeling awfully hungry still, my burrito long since incinerated, I was drawn to a very teeny tiny restaurant offering eat in or take out with an Italian flag flying proudly over the door. "Rocco's Cucina, food from the heart". Food from Rocco's heart into my belly? SOLD.


I stepped inside, the delicious smells instantly waking up my salivary glands. My stomach voiced its approval in my choice! A sweet and cozy atmosphere with not too complicated of a menu to choose from, I ordered a rice ball with melted cheese inside covered in homemade pesto. I could have taken one of everything on the menu, but pizzas, lasagna, pasta and salad wouldn't fit on my bike so well. Brianna at the counter helped me choose and put the order in. And then, just before paying I spied The Cake.


Deserving of capital letters, just like The Yukon. It was three layers of chocolate high with a chocolate buttercream frosting and cute little colorful nonpareils stuck on the outside edges. Oh, and the clincher....a dollop of whipped peanut butter mousse like stuff on each piece. Life is short, eat dessert first!!!! I had at least another 15 km to go and knew I'd be riding in the dark regardless. Everyone in the restaurant heartily approved of my decision to eat cake while waiting for my meal. Such support!


I took the slice of heaven outside to eat and watched the traffic go by. Hillsborough seemed like a pretty cool little town with a farmer's market on Sundays, galleries, restaurants, and a lot of local colour. That cake rocked and I tried really hard to eat it at a normal pace. I thought back to the scary little preserved passion cakes I had stared at in the variety store earlier....these two cakes were from different universes!! It wasn't too sweet and it was so fresh I wondered if had been made only an hour or two before I showed up. No time to take a picture of it, you'll just have to use your imagination or go find Rocco's yourself!


While blissfully licking my plate (no shame here!) I noticed a message over the door "Dedicated to the one who restores all that is lost or stolen". Hmmm. That's a story right there, isn't it? Not your typical restaurant sign, but Rocco didn't strike me as a typical fellow. He and I had chatted a bit about business and life while The Cake was being served to me, and he struck me as an eager, passionate businessman who was so grateful for his little restaurant, despite the challenges.


When Brianna came outside to check on me (and with my full water bladder!) I asked about the sign overhead. She wasn't sure of the story, and went to retrieve Rocco. He shared that he had lost his entire life....and somehow managed to get himself into rehab. He clawed his way out of the pit and regained his wife, his children, his health and the restaurant was his dream come true. Wow. He said he believed in miracles and the quote came from one of the many, many passages in I believe he said the book of Job.


I thanked Rocco for the nourishing food, the sharing of his story and the inspiration. 15 kms in the dark on my bike didn't seem so bad compared to what he had been through.


As much as cycling at night is a bit scarier and you have to pay attention more, it has its own magic to it. There are hardly any cars, my sense of smell gets stronger and I can see the signs of life in cozy little houses as I roll along. With my super duper fashionable high vis vest and blinky lights, I look more like Las Vegas than a lone cyclist fueled by cake!


I could see the shape of the land contrasted by the color of the water as dusk fell. Moths bounded off my head. Different birds chirped. Skunks. Lots of skunks both visible scuttling across the road (ahhh!) or smellable, off in the bushes (ughhhhhh!) The stars came out. Millions and millions of stars, the Milky Way growing brighter and brighter, spilling across the sky.


At last a sign for Hopewell Cape appeared on the road and conveniently so did a sign advertising a piece of land for sale. Hmmmm....maybe it's my dream piece of land and I should go sleep on it to make sure?? One never knows, right?! Down a hill that would eventually, the next morning take me to the Visitor Centre and famous rock formations I pulled over at the For Sale sign to have a look around. With 178 acres, my little 4 x 6 foot tent surely wouldn't be a problem and luckily I found a nice little clearing amidst some alders that had hardly any ground cover, a naturally plant friendly tent pad! Tired and very ready to eat the glorious and still warm rice ball thing in my bag, I made camp and settled in for the night.


I could see the stars through the trees and hear little waves on the shore just down the road from me. Happy and grateful as always, I chowed down...Oh. My. Goodness. Pesto ran down my face and rice crumbled into my hand....it had to be one of the tastiest and comforting things I've eaten in a very long time!! Rocco for the WIN!!! Mission accomplished, I snuggled into my sleeping bag, feeling like one of the luckiest people in the world. Right up there with Rocco.


Be well!

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3 Comments


When the planets align, all is right with the world. Stay safe and keep having fun. If they ever open the borders I’m stopping at Rocco’s

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Diane Terry
Diane Terry
Sep 16, 2020

I love the mud. Hopewell Cape is one of my favourite places on earth.

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Silas Hanavan
Silas Hanavan
Sep 15, 2020

This trip is amazing. That pesto ball sounds f'ing incredible. I long to be moving many kms a day reading this. Alas I must keep my poultry rounds going, round and round day after day till freezer camp day in November. It frosted here last night, and most likely tonight. Skating is coming. Then we can do kms together! Ride safe. Your freaking bad ass girl. Flax says hi. 💙💙💙

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