Our Trav­els: Pedal Push­ers

This group of ad­ven­tur­ous se­niors has en­ergy to burn!

Our Canada - - News - by John G. At­tridge, Hamil­ton

This im­pres­sive group of en­er­getic se­niors spent a week bik­ing the Aca­dian Penin­sula.

Last sum­mer, I or­ga­nized a cy­cling trip along the Aca­dian Penin­sula for a group of se­niors. I’ve or­ga­nized a trip like this ev­ery year since 2001 and I’m con­stantly look­ing for new ar­eas to ex­plore. The Aca­dian Penin­sula, lo­cated in the north­east­ern cor­ner of New Brunswick, ap­pealed to me.

We were ten very fit se­niors: six men and four women, rang­ing in age from 61 to 80, all from around the Hamil­ton area. The trip was a week-long tour, and our planned route in­cluded driv­ing from Hamil­ton to Mat­apé­dia, Que., where we’d then cy­cle to the end of the Aca­dian Penin­sula, re­turn to Bathurst, N.B., the way we had come and take the train back to Mat­apé­dia.

With its quiet roads along the sea, flat ter­rain and de­vel­oped bike paths, the Aca­dian Penin­sula seemed a most at­trac­tive area for a cy­cling trip.

Driv­ing to the start­ing point, we made Drum­mondville, Que., our half­way stop, ar­riv­ing the next af­ter­noon at the Res­tigouche Mo­tel in Mat­apé­dia. Be­fore set­ting out, we took our usual group photo.

Things went very well at first. We had great views of the Res­tigouche River on our left as we cy­cled along. In Camp­bell­ton, N.B., we took pic­tures of the Salmon Plaza Mon­u­ment and the Van Horne Bridge.

The Days Inn in Dal­housie of­fered com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tions and su­perb cui­sine. Vis­it­ing Dal­housie’s Inch Ar­ran Light­house, we just missed get­ting caught in a storm.

Then we faced bad news: The Ben­jamin River Bridge on Route 134 was closed to traf­fic, which meant a long de­tour. In­stead of a pleas­ant shore route,

we were forced to bike along a ma­jor high­way and travel in the blaz­ing sun for more than 20 kilo­me­tres.

We stopped at the Salmon Bar­rier con­ser­va­tion area, but the salmon were gone, so we had to be con­tent with learn­ing about the place and eating our lunch. When we fi­nally made it to our overnight stop in Petit-rocher, we were shocked that our odome­ter read­ings showed we’d trav­elled 80 kilo­me­tres.

The next day was a re­peat per­for­mance of the heat and ex­tended dis­tances. One of our group, Tom, had done a tem­po­rary re­pair on an­other rider, Jean’s tire us­ing pieces of duct tape, which meant we had to find a bike shop right away.

The lo­cal tourist of­fice di­rected us to one in Bathurst. We all went there to cool off, but the trip there and back took us over some hills and about four kilo­me­tres out of our way.

Start­ing out once again we were back in the blaz­ing sun, with the heat last­ing all af­ter­noon. When we fi­nally got to Gran­deAnse, my heart sank when this day’s dis­tance was an­other 80 kilo­me­tres, much more than I had in­tended. How­ever, the stamina of my com­pan­ions amazed me. While I was about ready to col­lapse, they sat around chat­ting and laughing over cold beers.

Din­ner was just down the road from our mo­tel, at the Can­tine de la Plage. Speak­ing French, I com­pli­mented the man­ager on her fine meal, and then talked her into serv­ing us break­fast the next morn­ing.

The next sec­tion of the trip, Grande-anse to Ship­pa­gan, was much more pleas­ant with cooler weather. We by­passed Cara­quet on a some­what bumpy bike path, then af­ter a quiet stretch of high­ways found a bet­ter one leading into Ship­pa­gan. The aquar­ium there is the best in New Brunswick, and it so cap­ti­vated our rid­ers that some stayed there as long as three hours. Be­side the aquar­ium was a won­der­ful restau­rant, prob­a­bly the town’s best. Smil­ing wait­resses served seafood spaghetti, seafood casseroles and many more mouth­wa­ter­ing de­lights.

Although three days of rain had been pre­dicted, none had oc­curred so far, but we knew the end of the dry spell had to come.

Three of us, ig­nor­ing the weather, crossed the bridge to Lamèque Is­land, and fol­lowed a neat bike path to reach its west­ern side. With cooler tem­per­a­tures, flat ter­rain and the wind at our backs, this was what we had been wait­ing for. We went as far as the huge bridge to Mis­cou Is­land so we could snap a pic­ture.

Head­ing back, the rains de­scended, but only for an hour and a half, and that was it for the whole trip.

Start­ing our re­turn jour­ney the next day, we went into Cara­quet, the cen­tre of fran­co­phone Aca­dia. A charm­ing young stu­dent showed us in­ter­est­ing items in the Aca­dian Mu­seum. We stopped for lunch where most peo­ple seemed to be—the lo­cal Tim Hor­tons.

Then an­other of our group, Brenda, mis­han­dled her bi­cy­cle and got a huge gash in her leg. The dress­ing she put on it wouldn’t stop the bleed­ing, so by the time we reached the Sainte-- Anne-du-bocage Shrine, she was re­ally in trou­ble. David, the med­i­cal doc­tor in our group, ad­vised her to go back the three kilo­me­tres to the hos­pi­tal im­me­di­ately. Five hours later, she came back to us with her leg wrapped in gauze. It had been frozen, cau­ter­ized, cleaned and stitched.

Mean­while, we had re­flected on the Aca­dian tragedy at the peace­ful shrine, and moved on to the Bel Air Mo­tel. Din­ner at Chez Isa Restau­rant, a pop­u­lar place known to the lo­cals, was reached via a beau­ti­ful bike path through the for­est.

Our last day of cy­cling was de­light­ful. The hu­mid­ity was gone and there was an in­vig­o­rat­ing breeze off the wa­ter that kept us cool. On our right, wild­flow­ers in pro­fu­sion filled the ex­panse from the road to the sea. It al­most seemed we could keep on go­ing on this road for ever.

As we got closer to Bathurst, it be­gan to warm up. Af­ter a short stop at the Daly Point Na­ture Re­serve, we treated our­selves to ice cream. Our ar­rival in Bathurst was about 2.30 p.m. on a sunny Canada Day.

At the train sta­tion, the agents or­ga­nized the bikes and gear for our train jour­ney. Trav­el­ling just af­ter sun­set, we ob­served a mag­nif­i­cent or­ange sky out­lined with clouds as grand as cas­tles. We cel­e­brated Canada Day with the peo­ple of Camp­bell­ton, wit­ness­ing their su­per fire­works dis­play from the train.

We ar­rived at Mat­apé­dia at 10.30 p.m. lo­cal time, and were grate­ful to the engi­neer and his as­sis­tant who did all the un­load­ing. For­tu­nately, the Res­tigouche Mo­tel was just a short walk from the sta­tion.

Our gang was to­gether one more time at our re­turn stop in Drum­mondville where, over din­ner, we chat­ted about our ad­ven­tures. With good com­pany, good food and a suc­cess­ful trip of 430 kilo­me­tres be­hind us, who could ask for more? The group even paid my din­ner bill as a thank you for or­ga­niz­ing the trip. n

Top left: John (third from the right) with the rest of the group be­fore start­ing out. Top right: The Ship­pa­gan Light­house.

Above: Fish­ing boats in dry dock at Ship­pa­gan.

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