Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Trip - 2D

Leg 1 - Home to Fredericton (August 23rd, 341kms)
This trip was a business one, so why not take advantage of the situation and take the bike! I had a couple more things to pack this time, so besides the normal tank bag, I also loaded up my back pack to tie on the passenger seat. This is somewhat of a repeat of Trips 3 & 5....other than the return leg.

Since it was touch-and-go whether I'd take the bike due to Hurricane Bill, I was keeping my eyes on the weather reports for a few days leading up to launch date, and it was looking like Nova Scotia would get the major part of the storm, and not us. I was scanning the weather reports from the east and west sides of the province, just to make sure I had the right route with little or no rain. On this day, the weather cooperates, and I can take the shorter route along the east side of the province. The weather window of opportunity was at 3pm, so I headed out under overcast skies, and a comfy 68°F/20°C.

The trip down to Bathurst was uneventful, other than the increased traffic at the small city. They need some passing lanes here cause things get congested easily. On the east end of the city, the road forks to the right onto Hwy. 8, and it wasn't long before the clouds were very very dark - enough to make the street lights come on. The temperature dipped to 58°F/14°C here, and as usual, my body felt it faster than the on-board thermometer display. Before leaving home, I attached my water-resistant (not water-proof) jacket liner for possible wet weather. A mist began on the lower end of this highway approaching La Bonne Route. If rain started, there was no overpass to duck under for another 20 minutes, but luckily, it didn't rain at all. As usual, the traffic moves along nicely on this road, and after 100 minutes on the bike, I was stopping at the Petro-Can in Newcastle for gas and a break.

After washing the bugs off the visor, I was finding my way through Miramichi back onto Hwy. 8 south, and settled in behind a cop for a few miles. The clouds weren't so intimidating now, so I just enjoyed the ride down to Blackville, then Doaktown - where my stomach told me to pull into the nearest eatery - which happened to be Tim Horton's. I noticed a couple of bikes parked here, and as I was getting off mine, some young fellas were keeping an eye on me. While waiting to order, I saw the same 2 guys inside who biking gear on, and were obviously the owners of the bikes. After finally getting my chicken sandwich, donut, and tea, I sat down by the young bikers, and we soon swapped bike owner stats. They were owners of a Honda Shadow 750, and an old Honda CX-500, and were up for the hour drive from Fredericton. The conversation was good, and so was the meal....I was now ready for the final leg of highway.

My new tire that I bought on the previous trip is still in very good shape, so the twisties that begin at Taymouth, will make this section a pleasure to ride. Unfortunately the roads are wet down here, so I'll have to take it easy. It's not long before I take the Killarney Rd. exit into Fredericton, and the city is noticeably free from heavy traffic on this Sunday evening. As I approach the Princess Margaret Bridge, I take the mega S-turn under it, and pull into the Ramada parking lot.

After getting settled in, it's time for a visit with my buddy Jim, who has been diagnosed with brain tumour cancer. It's not a good future for him, but after surgery, he is upbeat....enough so, that he and Cynthia return to my room for some drinks. Hopefully his upcoming treatments will help.

Leg 2 - Fredericton to Mactaquac to Home (August 25th, 435kms)
The next 2 days are spent going back and forth from the motel to Mactaquac Dam, where I'm working with Kirk. The work is finally done, it's noon, and time to go. Kirk has taken the afternoon off to act as tour guide, leading the way on his Harley Davidson FLHX for a couple hours up the Saint John River valley, and it's a great sunny day at 73°F/23°C

After stopping at Kirk's place, we pull out onto Hwy.105 on the east side of the river. This is a nice little country road with lots of bends, rises and dips, and great views of the river (a far cry from the boring Trans-Canada Hwy). Within the first hour, we wind our way through Nackawic (another mill town that has been up-and-down with the pulp & paper industry), then make the first of many crossings over the river.

We're following the west side of the river now, and I try my hand at using my camera while driving - not that easy. I'm at least able to take a couple movies along the way, and they turn out half decent. Continuing north on Hwy.165, I'm amazed at how close and high the river is.... understandable how this area would easily flood in the spring. But, for now, it's summer, and the thermometer has bumped up a couple degress to 75°F/24°C, and the sun continues to shine! We make our way through the nice town of Woodstock where the Meduxnekeag and Saint John Rivers meet .

Continuing on, it's not long before we're driving downhill to the world's longest covered bridge in Hartland (1/4 mile long which opened in 1901). Many people line the side of the road taking pictures - including me. After a couple shots, I get back on the bike - only to realize I forgot the key on with the lights sucking the power out of the battery. Enough so, that the bike won't start. Luckily, there's a little more downhill for me to jump-start the bike before the bridge. This is a single-lane bridge, so after waiting for oncoming traffic to get through, it's our turn to cross. I follow Kirks' rumbling exhaust (ya, a tad louder inside the structure), as I hold the camera above the fairing in video mode. Now I know where they got the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel" as we exit into bright daylight again.

We're heavily into potato country now with field after field of the common plant lining both sides of the road, and huge "Potato World Museum" signs around Florenceville (the french fry capital of the world). It's time to cross the river again as we make our way to the Beechwood Dam. The first thing I want to do is get my helmet and jacket off, and the headpond sure looks like a great place for a swim on this warm day. I'm still on company time, so am obliged to answer a call by my boss's boss.

Continuing north, it's time for a snack break, so Kirk points us downhill into Perth-Andover, and it's a great view of the surrounding green hills....right down to the riverside, to Carl's Dairy bar. This is the first time I've had grapenut ice cream in long time, and it sure is great on this warm day! As we enjoy the snack, a young kid comes along on his bicycle and wants to know who owns the "crotch rocket". I let him know he's got a nice bike himself, then get some Windex from the dairy bar to clean the bugs off my visor.

We head back up the hill, follow the Aroostook River, and take the exit, where Kirk pulls over. He's gone far enough, and it's time to go our own ways. After saying goodbyes, he turns back south, and I continue north on the old T.C.H. which runs parallel to the new 4-laner through Four Falls. This leads me right into Grand Falls, where I find the downtown core which has the magnificent Grand Falls gorge and dam. The main street is divided by a wide medium with trees, benches and sidewalk. This is a beautiful town that I plan to revisit.

I find my way out onto Hwy.144 which heads northwest for my final Saint John River stretch up to St. Leonard. Here I gas up, grab a snack and drink, and realize I will get home later than expected. But, the extra time it took along the river was well worth it!

I point the bike northeast onto Hwy.17 and this route is a major change in scenery, which is basically trees, up through Saint Quentin, and Kedgwick, and then the awesome views begin around Adam's Gulch and Squaw Cap. The last time through here, there was 2-1/2 feet of snow on the ground and much colder during Trip-1.

This has been an awesome trip on a great day, and I finally am in the home stretch - arriving home after supper.

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