Our Travels: Pedal Pushers
This group of adventurous seniors has energy to burn!
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.