Oui, I am still deep in French-speaking territory as I travel through the Acadian region of New Brunswick.
It was a pick your poison kind of day today. Poison #1: the forecast was for the trickiest kind of weather – hot, with a better-than-average chance of rain. I opted for the rain gear and hoped it wouldn’t get too hot too soon.
Woke up and was surprised to see it was already 8:00 a.m. (forgot that I lost an hour again). I was fairly prompt about getting going, having a quick breakfast and visit with some other tenants of the house. By the time I was done with breakfast, it began to rain. According to the weather app, I should ride out of it within a half hour or so along my route, so I loaded up Fury and off we went.
We did ride out of it, but weren’t very far along the road before a dense fog settled over the world again, reducing visibility to about half a kilometer. Enter Poison #2: Ride nearer the shoulder and hope one of the moose the signs have been warning me about for two weeks doesn’t come strolling out of the ditch. Or ride in proper lane position and watch for some on-coming wanker with no patience to decide to pass in the fog and come barrelling at me on my side of the road. Having seen more dummy drivers passing in poor conditions than moose, I chose to ride just right of centre. We rode in and out of fog most of the morning before it dissipated for good.
I wanted to get to the Historic Acadian Village near Caraquet, so only took a short break for lunch while passing through Bathurst. Reaching the village in good time, I soon realized that one really needs a whole afternoon for it and I only had a couple of hours. I was glad I had removed my riding gear and changed my shoes – the day had grown hot and very humid. It’s a considerable walk around the village, which is a reconstruction of traditional Acadian life between 1770 and 1949. The Acadians were some of the original settlers in North America, arriving in the early 1600s. They were deported from their colonies in 1755 after refusing to fight for the English during the French and Indian Wars. Some returned to the area.
Throughout the site, the staff are dressed in period costume and play their roles in demonstrating everything from using tools to carding wool and newsprinting. There are all kinds of animals in the barns and yards and vegetable gardens planted. While wandering, I met Doug and Ken (I sure hope I remembered their names correctly – I didn’t make a note when I should have). Doug explained some of the old machinery to me and we had a good visit while wandering along. He also had a story about when he was a kid and the whole family of 7 was going to go to New Zealand. But the war broke out and public travel was banned so they never got to go. He went just last year to visit his daughter over there and didn’t want to come back. It was Ken that sidetracked my whole day by telling me about the Miscou lighthouse. It sounded too good to miss, so after I dragged myself away from the village, I suited up to go find it. “Just go through Caraquet – don’t take the bypass - and take Hwy 113. Can’t miss it”, said Ken. Ken doesn’t know me very well…..
Noticing the extremely enthusiastic display of Acadian flags all over the peninsula, I found out that there is a big Acadian festival this weekend in Caraquet. That explained the air of festivity and raucous displays of Acadian-ism. 😊
I got the first part right and even the second. I got onto Hwy 113. Then it started to rain pretty good and somewhere along the way, I must have missed a sign. Arrived at a junction and my trusty internal compass told me to turn right when I should have turned left. Ended up back on the big highway and knew that wasn’t right, but had to go a little way before there was a safe place to turn around. I persevered and made one more wrong turn and backtracked again before getting on the right road. On my way, I passed through Shippigan and saw the most colourful lineup of boats I have ever seen in my life!
It was a beautiful ride through marshlands and I crossed several “islands” on the way to Miscou. Ken had said the peninsula was the biggest sandspit in North America and I think he must be right. I definitely had the feeling that the highway was simply floating on a bit of dirt between me and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There were many birds and I think it must be a migration route or sanctuary for a variety of species. It is certainly an ideal environment for that.
I finally arrived at the lighthouse about 20 minutes before they closed for the day. WOW! The Miscou Lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in New Brunswick. It was built in 1856 from British Columbia timbers 175 ft long! The timber was shipped by train to Moncton and then by ship to Miscou. They were soaked in seawater to make them solid as a rock. The lighthouse structure is set up with many story boards on different floors as you climb to the top. But the top is the piece de resistance – a breathtaking view of the gulf and surrounding land. A house and barn have been re-created on the site as well – replicas of those lived in and used by the original lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse is now the property of the Coast Guard, who maintains the light and grounds. I might have to go back tomorrow before I leave for another visit and some of the ice cream that is supposed to be so good.
I was also interested to learn that they “mine” peat on the islands here. But not on Miscou Island. The staff guy at the top of the lighthouse told me that it turns red in the fall and the view from the lighthouse then is absolutely gorgeous. He said that they don’t mine peat there because they are afraid it will destabilize the ground and sink the whole island. This lent credibility to my sensation of riding along on a bit of land over the water and I was happy to hear they don’t permit peat mining on Miscou Island.
By now, it was growing late and I had abandoned any pretense of getting to Moncton. So I just headed back the way I came (without the diversions) and as I rode along the highway, noticed a “Motel” sign. The place doesn’t seem to have a name, but it is clean and quiet and has a beautiful view outside the rear window. I had to check google maps to find out where I am and that is Evangeline. This tweaked something in my memory. With a bit of mental mining, I recalled Elaine telling me I should try to see a play of Evangeline. Longfellow’s most popular poem was called Evangeline, about an Acadian girl searching for her lost love after the Acadians were deported from their colonies.
Now it is time to do a bit of research and re-work the next couple of days of travel. I hope you are still riding with me!
P.S. I also stopped along the way and visited a museum that told the stories of various nuns, monks and priests that had come to Acadia to convert the locals. That was pretty interesting too, although I didn't do the tour as it was in French. They had an amazing replica of St. Peter's Cathedral in Vatican City. In another room were displays of various local artists. I particularly liked the pictures of flowers made from shells - I wonder what they do to get the fishy smell out of them!
Flower: Purple Violet
My name is Alyson and I'm journeying across Canada by motorcycle. All provinces and territories north and west of here can be found under the Explore My Nation header at the top of this page.