I awoke to a very hungry feeling. Once again it was time to stuff my face with croissants. Somehow a third of a (regular) day’s calories worth of croissants wasn’t actually that filling, but luckily second breakfast was waiting for us at a Tim’s 40km down the road. After packing up and sneakily departing our hideout, we made short work of the 40km with some fast flat roads and a nice tailwind the whole way.
We had an overly-leisurely brunch at Tim’s then finally rolled out around 11:30am, much to Oliver’s chagrin. The route Google gave us was deceptively similar to the route I had planned but somehow Google’s was saying 300m of elevation and mine was saying 1100m. Confused, we decided to stick to my route. From then on the road only got progressively more hilly.
There was one “big” climb for the day, close to 100m of elevation gain, that came shortly after brunch. I took off at a decent clip, with no intention to race it. Oliver rolled by me and dropped a snide “everyone’s own race”. I completely fell for the chirp and took off attacking past him. Oliver caught back on over the first rise, about two thirds the way up. I gave him a 10m gap or so as he practiced his race commentary then I sprinted up and by him taking the KOM! He may take most of the hill sprints, but as long as I get one once in a while I can keep his ego in check 😛
With the racing done for the day, we settled down a bit and flew through the remaining hour and a half to the lunch spot – a diner that seemed to be the only thing for kilometers around.
We were only about 60km out from Woodstock, our stop for the night, and it was looking to be more of the same terrain, so we were hoping to make short work of it. It was stunning riding along the St. John River valley with sweeping viewing of the surrounding hills. I didn’t really know what to expect in the more inland Maritimes, but I certainly wasn’t expected to be reminded of Salmon Arm and the interior rolling hills of BC – sans big mountains looming in the background.
A metaphorical wrench was thrown our way as there was a bridge closed on our route. We detoured inland to a backroad that seemed to run all the way to town. What we didn’t foresee was the roller coaster we were getting ourselves into. This road dived sharply down before launching back up and repeating the process all while serpentinely winding through the river valley.
One flat tire – for Oliver – later and 60 painful minutes later we made it to the top of Woodstock. We harvested dinner from the local Superstore, setup camp at an actual campsite(!) for once, then consumed copious amounts of smoothie.
New Brunswick seems to have some very fun riding. Like I said, I didn’t really know what to expect here. The road quality is on par with Alberta, but even the main roads are quieter. We’ll certainly see more of these roller coaster hills, but tomorrow we dive back into the forest as we take a gravel trail that cuts straight – or as straight as a path can go here – to Fredericton!
I retract what I said about the road quality. It was surprisingly good yesterday, but today involved too much gravel, sand, and bushwhacking. Bet let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.
Thinking we only had 100 quiet gravel kilometers to do today, we had a slow start to the morning. By the time we packed up, went to Tim’s, and stopped by the grocery store (again) it was going on 11am. That’s okay, we thought. The gravel trail is pretty secluded so we’ll do it in one block, we thought. We made our way out of town – flying down the hill to the river, instead of crawling up it like last night – and onto the road that would lead us to the trail.
The trail, when we got on it, turned out to be an ATV trail. That’s okay, we thought. It’ll probably join the bike path soon, we thought. Besides, this is good bike-handling practice. The trail got sandier and sandier until a kilometer or so in I tried to dodge a protruding bush, my front wheel slipped on the super-soft center line between the wheel tracks, and I went over the handlebars – shoulder-rolling into the bushes. Surprisingly, nothing hurt. I got up, dusted myself off, and we kept tentatively making our way down the trail.
Two kilometers in and it didn’t show any signs of getting better. We stopped at the last bailout point before the trail turned into the forest for the next 40km. While Oliver became too well-acquainted with the foliage, we scrapped together a new route.
Going back through town and over the bridge we passed over 45min ago, we were finally on our way out of Woodstock. A pleasant 30km rolled by with nice river views until we literally reached an impasse. A construction project was underway, turning a few hundred meters of road into a giant ditch (I’m sure this isn’t the end goal, but that certainly looked like what was happening). Our two road options were to back track 10km to the Trans Canada highway – which we were still unsure if we were allowed to ride on it – or backtrack 30km to town and go down the other side of the river. Oof. We opted for bushwhacking our way around the construction site.
With the bikes trailing weeds, we made it around and on our way. The Trans Canada Trail took us on some derelict backroads and over a suspension bridge before we were back on a road that actually looked like it would take us somewhere.
Unfortunately, this is where my high opinion of the New Brunswick roads really started to fall. The final 50km into Fredericton saw us dodging large potholes and cracks on sketchy shoulders or riding over loose gravel and pulverized asphalt (or both, because why not?).
Some four hours and change after leaving Woodstock we rolled into Fredericton, tired, quite hungry, and sweltering. For our rest day, we landed ourselves a dorm room at the University of New Brunswick hotel. I haven’t actually heard much about this school, but it sure is a very pretty – and hilly – campus.
With groceries loaded in all sorts of spots on our bikes and persons, we slowly climbed our way up into campus to our dorm under the triumphant blare of a bagpiping band practicing nearby. After rescuing some beer from the surprisingly impressive NB liquor store, we were thoroughly done moving for the evening.
The past few days have taken their toll with the hot weather and hard riding. We’re ready for a rest day to recover before we make our final push to Halifax!
Cheers and Ride On!