Saturday, June 08, 2013

Pt 3 Trans Canada Trail: VT to PEI

Part of my two year effort to ride from Vermont to Prince Edward Island - mostly off road.

This part is the second year in 2012:

5/0  Woodstock, NB to Fredericton, NB

Begin at the halfway point.   My last day of my first ride in 2009 ended in Woodstock, New Brunswick where I took the bus to Charlottetown, PEI...  with my bike in its potato chip box.
 Now the family is dropping me off downtown, we have an impromptu picnic lunch curbside with the kids and the boat and every colorful local while I load up the bike.  The trail doglegs in Woodstock – so it is a trip back up the St John and across the new 585 bridge, a bit on the 105 and the rail trail back to Newburg Junction.  Here the rail trail parallels itself, slowly climbing to the town of McKenna.  It is ATV two track of every flavor; smooth and fast, soft and sandy, rocky and wet… all of it a slight grade up or slight grade down and all of it with the most aggressive deerflies I have ever encountered.  At times I can see the shadow of the cloud above my head chasing me.  At any speed below 9.4 mph there is a danger of deer flies making it out of the cloud and landing on me – great coaches these deerflies. 

  I do not let off the gas for the next 40 miles – and there is nothing to stop for as the names of the towns on the maps prove to be only words in the woods where rail siding towns once stood:  Shewan, Carr , County Line, Woodman and Woodstock Road.  In Millville there is a depanier and there is even a fully loaded touring bike outside.  Inside I find a cross-Canada cyclist taking a break and chatting with some of the locals.  It is funny to meet at these crossroads – he is a pavement only tourer on the road since April!  This is at the day’s  halfway point to Fredericton – which is good because I will pass no other stores until then.  I do encounter some ATV’s and it is not pretty.  I hear them first of course, and then see them coming at me full blast – three kids wearing just their bathing suits – do not let off the throttle at all and squeeze by at full speed – as unnerving as the auto traffic.  I see another ATV and it appears to be a father heading into town with his daughter – a much more civil encounter.    I begin to see other recreational trail users and trail amenities like picnic tables as I near Fredericton… I even find a water fountain to fill my bottles.  In the city the trail is paved and there are loads of people out on this beautiful summer night.  I grab a sandwich at a Subway and head out of town as the sun sets over the St John.

  At the juncture where the rail trail heads north and the Google Earth/ snow machine trail heads east, I enter a hole in the woods barely big enough for my bike.  Here it is rough ATV trail and obviously a major throughway between the city and the suburbs.  It is not the nice part of town I am guessing by the abandoned industrial detritus and self-permitted encampments of trailers.  Trail conditions go from worse to worser – I know have my light on and I can see ATVs coming towards me and these too don’t let off the throttle despite having no idea I am a bicycle – so I don’t take it personally.

Frederickton to Monkton

After the great Google Earth folly of the 2010 NE Fleche – you’d think I’d have learned riding next to Charles as he descended into a tunnel in the wee dark hours.  Turned out it wasn’t a mine shaft but a stick in the spokes that sent his shoulder crashing in a gentle slope to the ground.   This time the dark green route extended the Trans Canada Trail along the St John River past the industrial waste grounds and rougher neighborhoods.   And why was someone shooting in the woods in the dark?  Was that a machine gun..  Perhaps I was in the Oromoncto live-fire training grounds.. and at 11pm – those Canadians don’t mess around.  Rapid fire night vision gun shots super close – no lights no flash no warning signs.  Atv trail grew smaller while the puddles grew bigger.   Finally the trail is all wet and then a solid stream and then my light shines down a perfectly flat trail of water.   How long could it be?  As big as the entire Grand Lake Meadow?  Ankle deep to knee deep to deeper, now a snow machine cut canal through the thick bush as far as I my light shines  ahead and as far as I shine it behind.  The night is getting cool and the water cooler.  I am standing in cold dark water, in a cold dark night, miles from anywhere,  not a speck of high dry ground to pause on.  Tired with no place to sleep I turn around -15 miles back to Frederickton...back through the gauntlet of gunfire, drunken atv traffic, and burning garbage smoke.   Another 10 bonus miles looking for a place to sleep.  New Brunswick is often tough to stealth camp.  Thick scrubby brush filled with damp lumpy ground and mosquitos – while any flat spot has the treads of ATVs – don’t want a Paris Dakar midnight surprise.

 South below Grand Lake is the cycling route but I am already North and I am surprised to find I am entirely missing that section of NB atlas!

Route 10 is scary little to no shoulder all the way Minto.  At 4:30 am there is no traffic except a handful of commuters going the other way into Fred.  I get the heck out of Dodge, doing a high speed pack – stripping naked in downtown and  not stopping for breakfast until I hit the town of Ripples.   Site of the former NB WWII Internment Camp site.   Nothing to see here except the power of the New Brunswick forest;  there is no trace of the six machine gun towers overlooking the 15 acre prison guarded by 350 soldiers.   No sign of the 52 buildings– apparently many were moved to the Grand Lake to be used as summer cottages.  The trees have grown in seamlessly thick like the rest of NB forest.  If there was an environmental impact from 1200 prisoners and 350 guards cutting 2500 cords of wood to feed 100 stoves – it is no longer perceptible.   I stop in New Zion and get hot coffee and a muffin at a gas station.  The employee is none too happy to be working a holiday weekend and a dirty cyclist only seems to remind her this is precisely  why she doesn’t want to work today.   I don’t breach discussing the town name New Zion – was it settled by the 1940 prisoners who turned out to not be spies but Jewish refugees from  Germany and Austria? 

 In Minto I hop on the Old Post Road and immediately regret not taking the Cedar Rd/ Iron Bound Cove option as there is now church going traffic with no shoulder – but still a back road.  At IBC I take the Mine Road to Pleasant St. it shows as a dark solid black line on map but on the ground it is a mud road packed with rocks by mine trucks then cured in the sun on a hot dusty day.  Makes European pave smooth by comparison and I gather I will not be able to trust the map for road surface conditions.

The Chipman Bridge is uneventful and I make a quick stop at the tiny Irving gas station next to the largest Irving lumber Mill in Canada to refuel/water.  Next to the mill and the 3-story-mile-long  lumber pile is a small park with a few benches and even less shade from the miniature Lindens.   I ask the only person who walks by if they know if there is a bridge at the end of Dufferin Rd.  Since my Frederickton disaster I have been debating not taking the 22.7 mile short cut across the Canaan Bog from Dufferin Rd to Forks Stream.  … as I need two bridges in place to make the route work but I have no idea if either bridge exists.  Otherwise it is 70 miles of scary shoulderless  roads: rt 10 down to Youngs Cove and  112 up to Salisbury.  Fortunately this first person happens to be Paul Campbell, one of two employees working this weekend at this gianormous mill (not counting the security guard)  He hasn’t been out that way in a while but knows  there has been no bridge since the coal mine closed.  He says it is probably shallow enough to cross with it being so dry.  And adds in that Canada now buys its coal from China.  He loves the idea of my adventure and is confident I can ride all the way to Monkton on snowmachine trails… just ask someone on an ATV if I get lost!  He also offers the services of his twin brother who is RCMP – oh he’ll fly the Chinook out into the bog to find you!   We have a great time on the bench together; Paul’s wife stops by and is excited to introduce me to her young blond single friend who’ll be driving  her A4 convertible and the mayor in the NB day parade tomorrow .

Wishing I had the Pugsley for this trip.  From Cross bike in 2009 to wishing I had the Pugsley in 2012.   Ever aware of minor decisions made during low probability events that have potentially big negative consequences fatal situation  with mortal consequences     (“Black Swan”)

Monkton – Sackville.

Going into Monkton City shoulderless road with polite traffic (2xRC MountyP sighting) turns into nice bike lane in road dumps you in nasty free for all traffic circle then tight Main St through city.  Civilization!
2013 note:  There is a velodrome in Moncton!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 With many opportunities for real food… I choose the original Crusty Crab – certainly the inspiration for Sponge Bob Square Pants.    Alternative along river – red stone dust multi use path all the way south of city ends on rt 106 with, again nice bike lane in shared road.  At city limits dumps you with no shoulder to Miramacook.  Possible to take light green (ATV?) trail. I stayed on shoulderless 106 until Folley Lake and then saw ATV trail/road which I took To Little Dover.  Possible in Fox Creek to take road south of Leblanc Backroad direct to the Folley Lake ATV trail or continue to Meramcook West with the goal of reaching the Woodhurst /Baseline Rd  a blueberry/coppermine/ cell tower road.  With Baseline being the steepest climb in all of New Brunswick.

My bivy on the last night:

Sackville to Confederation Bridge to Charlottetown.

Stopped at info center.  Info lacking about trail to bridge.  Recommended route is to go back around the Tim Hortons under highway past Irving onto path… but shorter and possibly less dangerous* to cross four lane highway on rail trail.

  Took about 20secs for me to find a break with zero cars as far as eye can see.  * The Foursquare App has 8 comments about this particular Tim Hortons – all of them commenting on how dangerous the entrance is with bush and fourway stop light.   I’ll also add that it is a typical info center on a bike trail that knows nothing about the trail… they have no idea it does not go all the way to Cape Jourimain as pictured on the map!

Trail starts out beautiful and fast with 30mph tail wind – avg 21 mph .  lots of farms, good stone dust two track.  First glimpses of ocean.  At Allyns store 5? Miles from end? Trail becomes very loose 3” gravel chunks – very difficult to ride even with 29 x 2.1 tire. Deteriorates from there… no more ATV packing trail down grass growing.  I bail to road which has wide shoulder and same tailwind but 100km/h speed limit.  Jerk blocks shoulder to make cell phone call.  Last section before  nature center does not exist at all – given up to beavers.  Looks like you are trapped into going over bridge but suddenly exit 51 appears with small sign directing cyclists and god-forbid, pedestrians off the highway to the Cape Jourdain Nature Center/gift shop/ rest stop.  There is a manned booth at the entrance with an adorable island accented high school gal.. but  cars don’t seem to bother…

Bridge shuttle phone inside to left of info center.  Take bakery number slip and lift hotline phone. 

My new bridge x-ing friends:

 I am first to call although two other bikes await outside.  When shuttle arrives there are three bikes and five pedestrians… I am only one who took number – someone will have to wait.  From phone call to removing bags to ten minute drive and bags back on is close to two hours!   Bags must be removed and I still don’t have my carousel bar bag inquick detach mode.   Shuttle drops you off at bridge management company… I thought it would be info center on other side – instead looks like an immigration detention center.  Clean bathroom and water cooler not bad.  But I skip the ticky tacky tourist trap and scoot directly onto PEI Path with one intersection barely a few hundred meters on the road.

  From there I knew it would be easy sailing right into Charlotte town.  Rolling rail grade I average 13mph up and 22 mph down so make good time on perfectly consistent stone dust trail – mostly two track with grass and gorgeous farmland into Charlettown.  I see two child size ATVs driven by grown men with their knees in their ears, two touring couples heading the opposite way and one yellow jersey-ed bike patroller! Who seems to want to stop and chat but I blow by with my white iPod buds in the aerobars with a determined goal on my face. Cars politely give right of way to me on path except for one x-ing with is a 3 –laner and car to left stops and car to right but car to right in furthest lane cannot see me and thus refuses to stop until last moment.  Lots of pedestrian traffic – seem aware of rules and cyclist on multi.   I stay on track in Hunter River hoping I can beat my ride home to C’town.  Don’t want to get off here at the site of AES final ride.  One nasty two light pedestrian style crossing of the rt 2 and then it is through the center of UPEI and shopping zones to the Tim Horton’s at the bottom of the Hillsborough River bridge.   


Hillsboro bridge is a hairy proposition in road -way on windy bridge.  Shoulder widened since my 2009 ride by moving painted white line closer to center at the cost of a bucket of paint but not without taxpayer complaints.  Iona to Murray Harbour very loose and slow for road bikes need >700c x 32 tires.  Needs packing by patrol vehicle or atv.