on the NB Trail
In my last
blog entry, I had biked along the delightful cycling trails
of Quebec on the Trans Canada Trail, en route to New Brunswick.
after crossing the border and biking through the town of Edmunston,
the trail deteriorated into a state that can only be described
as mostly unusable. Gone were the young families, the elderly,
and shrieks of laughter I heard along the trail in Quebec, these
sounds replaced by the silence of the forest (not so bad) and
occasional growl of an all-terrain vehicle or shotgun firing
(not so good), and the squeaks and groans from my bicycle as
it bounced over rocks and became bogged down in ankle deep sand
New Brunswick, the trail seems lost and forgotten, grown over
and neglected. The gates which once blocked motorized vehicles
from entering the trail have been ripped open or detoured by
deep ruts cut through the forest, allowing ATVs and dirtbikes
to use the trail as their own private expressway. Each tire,
with its aggressive tread, kneads the trail surface like a thousand
tiny shovels, kicking up sand and aerating the gravel with the
power of 50 horses. Bicycle tires sink and slide, and to travel
by foot is to flirt with a possible twisted ankle. Up the hills,
the trail becomes a washboard, rattling my bones and jostling
my internal organs as I bounce and curse my way towards Fredericton.
In many places, the trail suddenly drops away into washouts
that are so large you could hide an elephant if you were so
inclined. The past winter brought severe rainstorms to the area
that destroyed many pieces of the province's infrastructure,
but I have no doubt that irresponsible use of the trail had
weakened its integrity and made it vulnerable to storm damage.
This suits the motorized users just fine; the fewer walker sand
bicyclists using the trail, the sooner they can claim the territory
Climbed over the left side
front cover of the local newspaper lamented the ongoing 7 month
long closure of a minor road connecting two small towns, the
result of a serious washout that also completely wiped out the
Trans Canada Trail which runs parallel to it. Nowhere in the
article was the trail mentioned. Instead, townspeople complained
that if they wanted to pop over to the next town in order to
drive up and down the main drag or to buy a pizza, they would
have to take a 20 minute detour (or drive to a different town).
As I carefully pushed by bike around the edge of the precipice,
trying my best not to fall into the abyss, I understood their
frustration but not perhaps for different reasons. This isn't
just the shortest route to pizza, it's the backbone of our Nation's
exception of about 10 kilometres on either side of the cities
of Fredericton and Moncton, of the nearly 1000 kilometres I
cycled across New Brunswick I did not see a single touring cyclist
and I could count the number of non-motorized users on the fingers
of one hand. Considering the state of the trail, it is not surprising
why. The trail here has been abused; enjoyed irresponsibly by
a few, but to the detriment of many. In the town of Hartland,
a nice man invited me to camp in his backyard due to the danger
of camping along the trail.
no, you can't put up your tent in the park or on the trail!
Those renegades on the quads will get you. They ride into town
at night, riding around without headlights, forcing cars off
the road, drinking beer and getting into trouble, then they
hop back on the trail and they're gone."
- Hartland resident
along the trail, beer boxes, shotgun casings, and even entire
sofas had been left behind by someone, possibly the dreaded
renegades. It's the same old deal I encountered earlier in the
adventure while biking in the B.C. interior. I always wonder
why this behaviour is still a persistent part of the Canadian
culture. Throughout our vast, beautiful country, we are decorating
trees with beer cans, putting bullet holes in traffic signs
and giving our pristine wilderness the backwoods charm of a
Fredericton in a town called Zealand, young men yelled obscenities
and make rude gestures at me as I bike past, as though they
expected this old man to shake his fist at them. “Maybe
they're the renegades!” I wonder while grinning at their
stupidity. I consider asking them just to see what they'll say,
but decide their response would be unintelligent and not worth
hearing. Luckily, this being Canada, the youth may be a bit
clueless, but at least it normally isn't armed.
bike shudders and groans over the rocks, and I grew weary of
biking barefoot through sections of the trail that disappear
under water. Two months ago in British Columbia, it all seemed
like part of the adventure – and it can be fun and satisfying
– but having just rode through Quebec I've become soft,
fattened by ice cream and spoiled by fine, crushed gravel. With
only a couple of weeks from my finish line in Halifax, I'd rather
just get on with it. I grit my teeth and push the pedals further.
Sackville, rather than continue along the New Brunswick trail
towards Nova Scotia, I took a branch of the trail headed north
to Prince Edward Island, where I've heard the trail is a major
tourist destination. People visit the island and actually pay
to rent bikes in order to tour the trails! This is where the
Trans Canada Trail actually originated, and I look forward to
returning to the best of trails.
in the world is that, exactly?
10 kilometres short of the Confederation Bridge, the NB Trail
throws one final insult. A branch lying on the trail jammed
itself into my derailleur, bending it into a mangled mess and
turning my 18-speed bicycle into a 6-speed. With the help of
some very nice local farmers, I was able to jury-rig a solution
that would take me the rest of the 70 kilometres to Charlottetown,
but I decided it was time to ditch the New Brunswick Trail and
ride along the highway.
out there reading the blog, I'd like to thank the various people
across Quebec and New Brunswick who let me sleep in their backyards,
and of course Bryan and his housemates in Fredericton for letting
me crash. Nothing like a 5 hour tube float down the river to
have the full Freddie experience! Kids, don't try that at home!
Matt and Anjali, friends from Toronto have flown in to see me
over the finish line in Halifax, and we met up shortly before
the Confederation Bridge to PEI.
I get it now.
to everyone who has donated to the Trans Canada Trail! So far
about $800 has been raised, but I'm hoping more of you will
get involved, especially if you like the whole principle of
the Route Verte in Quebec and seeing the same type of trail
exist across Canada, especially in New Brunswick. Every Canadian
should have access to such an amazing trail in their hometown.
If you agree, consider sponsoring a metre of trail near your
home. Visit my web site donation page to show your support!
only be a couple of blog entries left since I am within 500
of the finish line in Halifax. Thanks for continuing to follow
the journey and hopefully you've found some inspiration from