Moncton was a pretty big contrast from Sackville. Sackville is a tiny town of mostly students, rad people, many of them in bands or play music and some great graffiti and street art. Moncton is a big city, with bad grafitti, little to no art and music scene, with a tiny but growing bike community that is comprised of mostly burly heavy metal dudes, or straight edge kids who ride fixed gear bikes and low riders. Cory found me a place to stay at his friend JD’s place, and a few days later, I was back on the road with a new frame, actually, the exact same frame and size as my pink Norco, but green and branded Fiori!
My days in Moncton I spent collecting more McDonald’s free coffee, watching the tidal bore come up the muddy Pedicodiac River, getting paid rounds of beer by a burly fixed gear riding metal head, heading BACK to Sackville for an Astral Gunk show, going to the pretty unimpressive Magnetic Hill, and stuffing my face with bagels and donuts, once getting caught INSIDE Tim Horton’s dumpster, mouth full of donuts (I was pretty much ignored by the employee, the slight comment and the look of disgust on his face was pretty dehumanizing, dumpster divers are people too!)
I had a few days to kill before my Moncton to Montreal train so I biked down to the Hopewell Rocks, and snuck in for free (don’t judge, I had 5$ left in my pocket, which isn’t even enough to get in the park, let alone feed myself) Although there where a lot of tourists the park is beautiful. I walked around the flower pot rocks at low tide, and at high tide hung out at the beach picking up pretty rocks, and saw a giant flock of migrating birds on the beach, fattening themselves up for the flight down south.
Again, everywhere I turned the wind seem to blow in my face, even later that day when I back tracked back up to Hillsborough, the wind had reversed direction. Seb told me about some old silos out there, and on my way down I had stopped to record some tunes inside of them. I was coming back to camp out there! It was a beautiful night, made a big fire, had some beer (nickles and dimes left), made some food on the fire, sang my heart out slamming on my ukulele under the stars. An unexpected but welcome little drizzle started pouring down and I retreated to my tent, falling asleep watching the fire slowly burn out.
The following day I headed back to Moncton for my train, grabbing one last free coffee, watching the tidal bore one last time and grabbing one last Picaroon’s beer (running on my student line of credit by now, yikes, I’m not even a student anymore!) I was invited to the basement of a church for a free meal, which I gladly accepted, then jumped on my train, with 4 apples, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread from the mission, and 3 dumpsered Tim Hortons bagels for the 17 hours train ride. I gawked in envy at the passengers around me with their bags full of tasty snacks and big bricks of cheese as I ate peanut butter apple sandwhiches for lunch, supper, and breakfast.
The Halifax Montreal train, “The Ocean Limited” as its called follows up the east coast of New Brunswick and then down the St Laurence to Montreal. Its a beautiful ride, going thru marshes, over rivers, along the Bay Des Chaleur, thru the Appalaicians, down the sea way. The overly chatty lonely middle aged man quickly went from novelty to annoying, and the single teenaged mother and two constantly crying kids also lost their charm fast. I spent most of my time walking up and down the train and trying to sleep on one of the tiny couches in the service car, the big one was already taken.
I didn’t get much sleep, and was up early, but just in time to watch the sunrise as the train went through the Monteregie and my home town, over the train bridge we used to walk across as teenagers and by my high school. It feels good to be back and see familiar streets, the good old aggressive Montreal drivers, the Lachine Canal, and Charline who is letting me stay at her house for a while, but coming back also means I need to find a place to live, get a job, paybills… boo! Responsibilities!
My body is tired, my bank acount is empty, I’m feelin in dire need of human interaction with loved ones, circumstances grounding my feet in the cement of Montreal. Ideas for more vagabond, fox-trotting, travels have been brewing long before I got off the train, long before I even left in the first place, and coming home is just more of a reason to make plans to hit the road again for more adventures.
I left Montreal on Thursday after many goodbyes. The bike path from Montreal to Granby is flat, follows what used to be train tracks, cutting through fields and small town. There are many rest areas with picnic tables along la Route Verte, that’s where I slept the first night, just outside Farnham. The sound of chainsaw in the distance at night was a little creepy tho.
Next morning the bike path was just as easy, cutting through Granby, stopping off at a dollar store for some food and a swim in the lake with daisy and tuna sandwiches for lunch. Once that part of the bike path ended tho, I had about 10km of relentless hills that would not stop coming until the next portion of the bike path. I managed to bike my fixed gear, 50 pound loaded bike up all of them by zig-zagging up.
Once I got to Parc du Mont Orford, and back on the bike path the hills were not as big, and the path zig zags up and down through the park. Saw a baby deer on the way to the one campsite that was left, making use of the free coffee and food condiments at the registration building on my way in and out. I fell asleep to the sounds of raccoons and light rain outside my tent. I was hoping for a thunderstorm.
The Route Verte outside Orford is hell. So many useless loops and hills and winding little paths. It was really annoying biking up a winding hill only to come back down that hill and cross the same street just a hundred meters or so down the road. From now on, checking maps, finding shortcuts and looking out for useless detours.
Sherbrooke is a nice small town. I got there just in time for a wakeboard contest and blues festival, so I broke out the old ukulele, and new harmonica (thanks roomies!) and busked on Wellington street while some local kid who was really stoned listened to me play while he drew manga characters and offered a few minutes of chatting. I made enough cash to merit a few tall cans of beer, then found a bench behind the tourist info bureau to sleep.
The next day I spent in Sherbrooke not doing much. Saw some art, dumpstered some bread and raddishes, sat in the grass and read a book. Couldn’t find a couch to surf on again so I squated a half burnt down building beside and old folks residence.
Next day I had to cover a lot of Km to get to Quebec in two days, and it was a terrible day. Went up the biggest hill of my life, had to walk the end of it, only to find out I went in the wrong direction, got a flat, patch didn’t hold up. Tried to make friends with someone who was on the bike path going the same way but they seemed freaked out and bike away like I was an evil person. Remember those shortcuts I wanted to take? Well they all failed, and I lost time trying to reorient myself. That night, I did find a really nice spot under a bridge just outside Victoriaville to sleep under as a gentle river flowed past just feet away.
Next morning I checked a convinience store dumpster and found endless chocolate bread slices, and sandwiches. I bagged more than I could eat and made my way to Quebec. At this point the bike path comes back onto old train tracks and is flat until Levis, just on the other side of the St Lawrence river. I made my way to a hostel in the Basse-Ville part of town. I figure I could use a shower and a real bed to sleep on for a few nights while I recover.
Two years ago I moved out of my Verdun apartment, stored what I had left of my belongings and packed a small 1990 Toyota Corolla and drove west ward with a vague plan of getting hopefully getting to Tofino to learn to surf.
Two months of being on the road, picking up hitch hikers, sharing meals, meeting people, seeing old friends, sleeping on couches, hitch hiking after ditching a broken car, sitting on long Greyhound bus rides, longboarding in Banff, busking for bus fares and beer, gardening at a hostel for a place to sleep on the floor, sharing wet suits and surf boards, camping in the rain forest, staying in a commune, hiking, moving, loving every moment while hating some at the same time.
Two years later, University degree behind me, my feet have been itching me to get back on he road, without a car this time. The inconvenience of owning a car, and my dislike for public transit has led me to pedal my way across the city for the past few years. The only way I ever get around, a simple pink fixed gear bike. It’s almost an extension of my legs at this point.
It only makes sense, and at the same time it doesn’t, to head east this time around. To the other large body of salt water this time, to the Atlantic, to Lawrencetown. Just outside Halifax, Lawrencetown is one of the best and accessible surf spots in eastern Canada.
The Route Verte is a network of bike paths that covers much of Quebec. It also follows the Trans Canada Trail. I’ll be taking it east, with not much of a plan as to where to stop, or which route to take. In New Brunswick, the network continues as the Sentier NB Trail. As for Nova Scotia, not sure, haven’t looked into it yet. We’ll see once I get there…