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What happens when you stay up too late on a cycling trip? Day 14!

Home for the night: Haut du Ruisseau Nature Park, Memramcook

Distance: 45.3 kms

Weather: brief periods of passing showers all morning with a cold breeze. Sunny in the afternoon, but cold

B: oatmeal supreme with a protein shake mixed in (not recommended....gross!!) Coffee

L: tortillas with almond butter, trail mix, granola bar

D: homemade dehydrated taco surprise with pitas, chocolate

 

gravel, oh gravel

pavement never looked so sweet

shake, rattle and roll!

 

September 11th, many years after the whole world changed. I always remember where I was in a flash when the news came in about the terrorist attacks in New York. I was in my highschool geometry class....and our principle's voice came over the intercom to notify all students and teachers what was happening. We all crowded into the classrooms that had televisions and watched with horror as many of us had relatives that worked in or near the World Trade Centre. A moment of silence to remember, always. Every year, regardless of what I am doing.


Today also officially marks two weeks on the road!! Unbelievable! I have still been feeling like I have just started this adventure, saying to folks I've met that I'm just beginning....but now that I realize this many days have passed, I'm now in the middle of the middle! When I look at the map and see how far I've come, it's pretty cool. The moment to moment and day to day are so small scale (just this hill, just this first 30 km of the day, just this day) that lo and behold, if you keep doing that...over and over, you get somewhere!!! Surprise!!


A note about these blog posts too...something that I'm always curious about: I am having a delightful time writing them, it is a very enjoyable experience for me. Each one takes about an hour between writing, formatting and hoping the internet will load a photo or two for me. And then? I hit the "publish" button and all of you get to read whatever I've rambled on about. I don't edit anything, I'm sure there are typos galore thanks to a small phone screen and I don't reread a word. It's become an online version of my journal....completely a stream of consciousness and hopefully, most of the time followable :) thank you for continuing to be part of this adventure with me! What is beauty that is not shared?


I'm fairly certain my last post trailed off as I was leaving Joggins, bound for New Brunswick. It had looked like rain all day, but the sun was shining and despite getting on the road VERY late (like 3:30 late!!!) I was grateful for all that lay ahead of me. Jenna, Mark and Edna's daughter had saved me with a bottle of white fuel so I didn't have to go shopping in Amherst. My fuel bottle had kindly been refilled in Chignecto by one of my hiking comrades, as I worked on other tasks. After the ladies had left and I was loading my panniers to head to Harish and Monica's, I noticed the cap of the bottle wasn't fully tightened and all of the fuel had leaked out onto the ground. No fuel for me. All the fuel in the earth (which was far more troubling for me) and absolutely no white gas to be found in Advocate. I decided that the half cup left in the bottle would do me for a blast of coffee...and that I'd either cook on a fire or eat cold ramen noodles. No biggie! Trusting the universe paid off as I wound up not needing my stove a single time because of landing in Edna and Mark's nest. Jenna's generosity had me fully self sufficient once again!!



I rolled through fields and past wind turbines, occasionally catching glimpses of the trans Canada that I had driven a thousand times before. Cows, trains, sunshine, and mist blowing across the Tantramar marsh for as far as the eye could see. Oh, this marsh. I had been very curious as to what biking across the big, flat, wide open area would be like. There have been times that I've felt nervous driving across in heavy winds. There are stories of transport trucks not being able to cross for fear of being blown over and I myself have had a few canoes/loaded bike racks wiggle around a bit more than I'd like through the crossing.


Deeply fertile soil that was once under water, the marsh marks the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It is largely in production for farming and pastureland and lush grass with cows extends as far as the eye can see in every direction. The winds were slightly in my favour, not quite off my shoulder, more from slightly behind which I was very thankful for. Anything but a headwind please and thank you!!


To the border!!! As a cyclist, I'm not allowed on the highway, thankfully and my route that Adam and I had mapped out at home directed me north, away from the border crossing/virus screening station. It was so bizarre seeing the infrastructure in place for people to report their story at the provincial border. Flashing lights and a long line of traffic awaited entry to Nova Scotia as I biked over the highway off into a part of the province I had never seen.

Welcome to Nova Scotia! Such a surreal view from the overpass of incoming traffic to the province

Feeling in good spirits I sang to the cows and admired the beautiful farms laid out all around me. As much as I adore and support intact natural ecosystems...I am always amazed by farms and appreciate well maintained properties...it's more work than most of us will ever know!


At last! The turn off to the road that would take me across the border into a new province! Down a long, winding hill into the fields below. The road turned to gravel....and up ahead were orange signs and traffic cones. No signs of human activity anywhere....and a big sign read ROAD CLOSED, BARRICADE AHEAD. !?@$%$!!!!!


I slowly approached. I really didn't want to go all the way back the way I'd come OR go across the highway at all. I looked around. The barricade certainly prevented all manner of motorized traffic from crossing the little bridge. The signs, however were a very convenient distance apart for a cyclist to walk right between and wheel her bike without any trouble at all. Hmmm......

$&-+!??@$$ !!?@$%*???!?!

Feeling a bit rebellious and a little concerned that this was totally wrong I walked through the barricade, and half expected someone to jump out of the bushes and yell "gotcha!!". A bird chirped. A cow stared at me. Well, ok then! No cliché selfie in front of a "Welcome to New Brunswick!" sign for this girl! I was officially in the province and I needed to make Sackville for the night.


A very kind person named Matthieu had approached me to ask if I was ok back when I was sorting through my cycling gear in the grass at Chignecto. Rightly so, as I was surrounded by a sea of possessions that looked impossible to fit on my bike. I looked like a first rate disaster and didn't blame him in the slightest! Through conversation about my trip and his recent move from Quebec to Sackville for a job he offered his yard as a stopover if I needed it. The distance turned out to be perfect and my route actually was already planned to go right by his place!


Knowing I didn't have to worry about where I was getting water or putting my tent I happily pedaled off across the flats on farm roads. Although, the road was certainly not flat. Washboarded gravel is maybe one of my least favourite things next to blue cheese. Although black beauty is meant to take a beating, it just feels like my teeth are going to fall out of my head, my pannier rack will break and everything is going to implode. I snaked my way along, trying to find the least crappy sections of dirt. Tractors went by. Kms dragged on. The wind was fortunately not an issue, or I was to preoccupied trying to stay upright that I didn't notice. I still admired the land and even discovered a beautiful covered bridge!


The sight of pavement was never so sweet and I celebrated with a shout of glee and granola bar before shoving off to finish my ride. A trail brought me all the way to Sackville, and suddenly I was next to a McDonald's, Tim Horton's, loud gas stations and a lot of cars. Poof! Gone was the pleasant, albeit bumpy scenery...now it was full on urban nighttime defensive cycling! Which I kind of actually love, having lived in Toronto for a year where cycling is an adrenaline sport.


I rode by Mount Allison University, chatting with two students as we crossed a road together. They were happy to be back at school, even if they had to wear masks everywhere on campus and that many of their classes were online. We wished each other well in both adventure and education and just a bit further on I found Matthieu's house, no problem! VERY happy to get off the road, Skipper the dog welcomed me enthusiastically and Matthieu lit a fire in the yard while I made myself at home.


Food, a shower and good company!! What a great way to end the day! It was so nice to sit around the fire, chatting, swapping stories and enjoying the evening. Matthieu had just signed a three year contract with the federal government as a field technician for the wildlife management areas in the surrounding vicinity. Fresh out of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the crazy muddy tides of the Bay were all new to him. We had a great time, especially as I tried to dust off my French...providing lots of entertainment for both of us. And then, it was 2:30 am. Oops. The problem with good company, regardless of who they are, be they Shelley, Mark and Edna or rediscovered acquaintances like Trish....time just evaporates!


I slept like a log and Matthieu was gone in the morning on a run for work supplies. I charged my stuff, wrote a bunch, sat in a chair in the yard with Skipper at my feet in the sun. It was chilly, but my sleeping bag was so cozy! I eventually got myself together and with Matthieu's help after his return, we figured out his compressor/my valve adapter and my tires were ready to roll! We said goodbye with a potential shared adventure at Hopewell Rocks on Sunday to look forward to. He and Skipper were fantastic, easy going hosts and I give Chez Matthieu a 5 star rating!


I had adjusted my route feeling like I had lots of extra time, so began to follow the coast as closely as I could towards Johnson's Mills. Working my way south on the peninsula, I could see where I had been and even the cliffs at Joggins were visible! However, as beautiful as it was, I started second guessing my choice when the road turned to gravel. And stayed gravel for close to 20 km. The gravel was very loose and the sub grade was even more washboarded than the day before. Rattle, rattle, rattle. Please don't break, please don't break, please don't break. My ass hurts, my ass hurts, my ass hurts. Fun times!!



Still, it was beautiful and I was jolted out of my scenery gawking as I noticed something move on the road right ahead of me.....a porcupine!!! I had been looking out over the water and didn't even see it until the last second, its quills were all lifted and it seemed quite annoyed with my passing. Sorry buddy! What a way to get a flat tire!


Rattling ever onwards, I could feel my energy and motivation to cover my full 60 km distance waning. I happened across a Nature Conservancy of Canada shorebird reserve site...I wandered down to the viewing platform and watched hundreds of little Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding in the nutrient rich mud. Their sounds reminded me of spring peepers and I marveled at the little birds that were preparing for their 72 hour nonstop migratory flight to South America. They were way more hardcore than me, who didn't even want to bike 60 km today! The gravel was my main reason, but I'm sure the late night wine and scotch played their part too...


A few gut busting hills had me up and above the river with killer views of blueberry fields and soaring birds. A flock of gulls swirled overhead, looking like a snow globe, just drifting and being lifted by the air currents. It was mesmerizing. I watched for several minutes thinking about how free the birds looked and how free I felt and how god damn beautiful life can be. ESPECIALLY when you get back onto pavement!!!!!!! Yippee!!


I rolled along, my legs feeling pretty heavy, and each little hill felt like a victory. And then, on the hill to my right a huge, industrial complex came into view. A penitentiary?!? Oof. I had no idea Dorchester had a prison. It was ironically surrounded by acres of wide open field....freedom and space surrounding confinement. I thought back to the wheeling and reeling gulls I had seen and the feeling of spaciousness I had just experienced, moments ago. It was very bizarre....especially when rolling past the old jail, its museum and an advertisement for "stayinajail.com". Really?? It was a bit of a surreal moment and I thought about all of our systems and incarcerated humans and how many hundreds of failures our systems have that could prevent people from being imprisoned in the first place.


Thoroughly done for the day I started looking for a place to camp. I was hoping for a freshwater stream so I could be on my own and just go to sleep after dinner. A sign for a nature park along a creek suggested it would be worth the two km detour. Finding it easily, I discovered an extensive trail network and no signs prohibiting camping. I wandered for about a km before finding a perfect, inconspicuous spot for my tent right next to the stream! There was even a picnic table and not a soul in sight.


The temperature was dropping quickly and frost warnings were in effect for the area. The stars came out and this little cyclist happily crawled into bed, grateful to rest and to do it all over again the next day.





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