On March 8, 1987 a tragic event occurred that forever changed the lives of a young family. At this time of year the memories are overflowing but the connections are always growing. I never know when I will meet someone who will share their memories and connection to this day. This year I was reminded of just how small the world is when a co-worker at my new job came to my desk and told me that at the beginning of his career as a journalist he was a reporter in Fredericton and covering this event was his first big story. Amazing.
This past Monday the story of this day was featured on the front page of the Fredericton newspaper. Here is the story:
30 years after murder, no forgiveness
The Daily Gleaner Mon Mar 6 2017
Byline: Michael Staples
“My dad was a great guy by all accounts.”Those words, a reflection on a parent now gone, take on a new meaning when spoken by Valerie Aucoin.She didn’t get a chance to know her father too well - he was gunned down at close range on a wooded stretch of highway about 20 kilometres southwest of Fredericton 30 years ago this week.When the body of New Brunswick Highway Patrolman Const. Emmanuel (Manny) Aucoin was found, a half-written speeding ticket in his hand, seven-year-old Valerie’s world shattered.“So much has happened over the past 30 years with plenty of ups and downs,” Aucoin recently told The Daily Gleaner.“For a long time, I didn’t fully understand just how much that tragic day had created such a deep-seated anger and unhealthy childhood coping mechanisms that took their toll. However, over the past five years the upswing of positivity in my life has been substantial and I believe I am a much different person now and in a much better place by all accounts; physically, emotionally and mentally.”The man who killed her father, Long Island, N.Y., resident Anthony Romeo, remains in Dorchester Penitentiary, still considered a menace to society. When Manny pulled Romeo over for speeding on March 8, 1987, the American was on the run, wanted for another murder in the U.S.Aucoin had been a member of the New Brunswick Highway Patrol for three years and was stationed at the Harvey detachment.After killing Aucoin, Romeo fled the murder scene.A car matching the description of Romeo’s was seen crossing the U.S. border at Calais, Maine, but no one had been alerted to its possible involvement in a crime.Later that same day, officials learned Romeo was on a plane headed to Boston. He was arrested at the airport there when he exited the aircraft. Canadian authorities succeeded in extraditing him to Canada where he stood trial.Romeo was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder in 1988, but his conviction was appealed before the Supreme Court of Canada and a new trial was ordered. He was found guilty again in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison.In November 2005, Romeo was returned to the U.S., where he admitted to the murder 20 years earlier of John Starkey, son of a former aide to former governor Mario Cuomo on Fire Island, N.Y. After plea bargaining to the New York murder, Romeo was sentenced to serve seven to 21 years concurrent to the life sentence he received for Aucoin’s murder.While he was subsequently returned to Canada, he appealed the New York conviction, arguing the 19-year delay deprived him of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The conviction was overturned on those grounds in February 2009, according to an article published by the New York State Law Reporting Bureau. The bureau is an online library of New York State court decisions dating back to 1956. At a 2012 Dorchester hearing, board members denied Romeo’s application for parole.The Daily Gleaner has learned that Romeo waived his right for the parole hearing last year and the next is scheduled for 2021. Valerie hasn’t forgiven, or forgotten, the man who killed her dad.“My feelings towards Romeo are mixed at best and extremely harsh at worst,” she said. “I had hopes previous to the first parole hearing that he would prove that he had some sense of remorse and had genuinely tried to do anything he could do behind bars to attempt at becoming a better person. My hopes were tossed as it became quickly obvious he was still a horrible person and I have not forgiven him in any way.” Her father, meanwhile, still holds a special place in her heart. “My dad was a great guy by all accounts,” Valerie said. “He did everything he could for anyone he could help. We always had everything we needed and he worked really hard putting himself through police academy. Everyone who has ever told me a story about him only have had high praises for him.”About seven years after the murder, the Aucoin family left Harvey and moved west.“I did visit Fredericton, the [murder] site, and Harvey Station nearly six years ago,” said Valerie, who now lives in downtown Calgary. “I think of that day less often throughout the year but, as March nears, memories and thoughts are far more frequent.”Valerie said her life now revolves around being active outdoors and having a creative, art-focused life. “I really do love living in Calgary,” she said. “It is an amazing city full of energy and possibility. However, my heart is in the east coast. I still visit often and, I suspect, had the murder not occurred I possibly would have lived there for the majority of my life ... I try to visit the east coast at least once a year but am usually drawn to P.E.I. as that is where the bulk of my family lives.”Valerie said her brother Jeremy and mother Esther are both living in Canada’s north, but prefers not to divulge exactly where. Both have declined to comment on the incident as the 30th anniversary nears.But, in a 2011 interview, Manny Aucoin’s wife Esther said time has a way of easing the intense pain, but she can also picture every aspect of that day and thereafter.“Manny was the centre of our beings,” she said. “He was a very spiritual and peace-loving person who carried his duties well on duty and off.”Also in 2011, Jeremy Aucoin said the most noticeable side-effect of his dad’s death is how he’s incapable of trusting others well.“I have an extreme short list of friends that I would give my life for,” he said.Wondering what her life would be like if her father hadn’t been taken away is something Valerie has thought about a lot, especially when she was younger. But she still feels like it’s a loaded question. “I wouldn’t be who I am today had none of this had happened, for better or worse.”© 2017 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
This morning I spent some time in a popular coffee shop between appointments reading and having a late breakfast and latte. I had the fortunate experience of sitting next to a table of two middle-ish aged men having a coffee catch-up. As I read and ate, I overheard snippets of their conversation transition between current events, US politics, world history and the well being of one of their dog's after a recent diabetes diagnosis. What really piqued my interest though was when they began talking about global warming and how they didn't really believe it. There was mention of someone of an authoritative position quoted as saying the Earth is in a warming trend anyways, therefore, it's part of the natural cycle and any real effects wouldn't be apparent for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. However (and this is where I fully stopped reading and really eavesdropped on their conversation), if they were shown their real individual impact on the environment perhaps it would make more sense to them but otherwise there's nothing they could (would?) do to make any difference... so what's the point in changing anything they do day-to-day? This brought to light one of the many disconnects between the scientific evidence of global warming and the skeptic, in which there are many from countless angles. Much of the real science and data that I've seen is on such a huge scale that many individuals simply do not see their part in it... let alone believe the facts that have been repeated and amplified over the years that global warming is real, it is happening at an ever increasing rate and humans are the root cause of a lot of the problem. There are over 7 BILLION people on this giant blue marble spinning around in space so how can one person feel that they could (should?) do anything to make any significant impact? When you live in a land locked province, in a clean city and are generally shielded from the devastating environmental effects occuring around the world (and in our own country & province mind you) it sure is easy to just carry on with consuming and enjoying our decadently fueled lifestyles.
Living in the post-oil market crash economy has been especially interesting lately. There seems to be a growing divide between energy resource exploiters and environment caretakers despite how industry or governments spin their latest sound bite. Capitalism and economic growth are continuing with the same mindset that got us in this situation in the first place. The concepts of "degrowth" or thinking differently about how our future energy needs will be met is tough to have conversations about when 30% of the local workforce are struggling due to lay-offs, lack of good paying jobs to support themselves and being hit with a carbon tax that has been calculated on last year's income. Governments continue to use terms such as "technology", "green energy", and "diversified economy" meanwhile they don't practice what they preach and continue to purchase gas-guzzling vehicles at tax-payers expense because they are "safer"... which is total bullshit.
Many of the big name energy resource exploiters really are using their technologies to be more efficient despite the overwhelming environmental damage that is done in the meantime. However, these companies are not in the business of "protecting the environment". Their goal is to make money for themselves and their shareholders. Also, and obviously, there's a huge demand for energy here and around the world in which they are in the business of supplying and can do extremely well when the markets are available to them.
Most of us are living lives fueled and funded by oil, oil derivatives, and natural gas here in Canada... myself included. We can just flip a switch and lights turn on. If we have a question that needs answering many of us have access to the internet on super computers found in our pockets. When we're hungry there are hundreds of choices at the grocery store brought to us via an unbelievable logistics network from around the world. Want strawberries in January? Sure... they're available at the local Co-op for only $3 a pound!
So what can we really do as individuals though and will any of it make a difference? Well since living off-grid and having little to no negative impact on the environment is next to impossible here are a few ideas to get started: Consume less. Buy local. Eat seasonally. Think critically when deciding on purchases. Organize clothing swaps with friends. Walk, bike or take transit whenever possible. Visit the library and check out books before buying new ones. Use reusable bags. Choose less processed and less packaged products whenever possible. Recycle, reuse or repurpose everything you can. Educate yourself with real science and environmental news. Watch documentaries.
Plant a tree. Grow your own garden.
I honestly don't know how much less carbon any of these ideas produce but I bet there's a study out there with this kind of data. What would happen if every individual made more everyday choices that included the forethought of "how does this choice affect the environment today? Tomorrow?" Again, I don't know the answer but I do know that someday in the future when my body takes it's last breath I will know that I lived a life that tried to do more good to the Earth than harm.
Kit list post!!! One final blog post listing all the gear I brought on my first bike tour cycling west-to-east across PEI via the Confederation Trail/Trans Canada Trail and various roads throughout. I suspect I'll refer to this in the future as nearly everything was used (minus items marked with an *). However, those items went unused because I didn't have any emergencies or had to truly camp any evening.
The starting point of my own packing list came from an extensive list found here which was honed down to what I ended up bringing listed below. As I was semi-supported throughout the tour but carried most everything with me throughout I believe I would do pretty much everything the same if I was going on the same type of trip. Before the next trip I will invest in a proper handlebar bag so I don't need to carry a backpack next time. Also, I will find a suitable front pannier rack to distribute some weight to the front of the bike. Otherwise, this is it:
2 tank tops – Lulu Lemon
1 long sleeve - Marmot
2 pair padded bike shorts – MEC
1 pair mtb shorts with thigh pockets – MEC
1 blue long sleeve jacket
1 pair cold toes over shoes - Castelli*
1 neck warmer
1 pair leg warmers
1 thin wind jacket*
2 sports bras – lulu lemon
2 pair cycling ankle socks
1 pair cycling shoes - Shimano
1 t-shirt, cotton
4 pair underwear, cotton
1 pair shorts, cotton
1 pair yoga pants – Lole
1 pair thick socks*
1 wrap sweater
1 pair thin jeans
1 pair flip flops
1 bathing suit
Bike Rain Wear
Cycling rain jacket - Sugoi*
Water resistant pants - MEC*
Over-shoe rain protectors - Sugoi*
1 shower cap*
1 helmet - Nutcase
1 Rocky Mountain Solo Cyclocross bike
2 Marathon Plus tires
1 Arkel rear pannier rack
2 Ortlieb rear pannier bags
2 bottle cages and water bottles – Specialized
1 Filzer tire pressure gauge
1 CO2 cartridge holder
3 CO2 cartridges
1 hand bike pump – Planet Bike Micromite
2 tire levers
1 bike multi-tool
2 spare tubes
1 small container bike lubricant
1 front bike light – MEC
1 rear bike light – MEC
1 rear bike light reflector
1 bike mojo – Harold’s puppy collar
1 6mm allen key - for pedals
1 bike lock
1 tent – MEC Tarn 2
1 sleeping bag – North Face -7C
1 sleeping pad – ThermoRest
1 thin sleeping toque
1 length rope with 8 clothes pins*
1 4x6 orange tarp
1 half roll toilet paper in Ziploc
1 thermos – MEC
1 k/f/s set
1 small tealight emergency candle *
1 package wind/water resistant matches*
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Small containers for: face wash, toner, moisturizer
1 small soap in Lush container
1 tube 60 SPF sunscreen – Neutrogena
1 after-sun aloe spray
1 small container coconut oil
1 container deodorant
1 small container chamois cream*
1 half tube arnica cream*
1 thin camp towel – Namaste
1 foldable yoga mat
1 lacrosse ball
1 book – Marcus Aurelius - Meditations
1 pencil and pen
iPhone SE & charger
1 bike light charger cord
4 bungee cords
Various zip ties
1 Leatherman Multi-tool
1 First-Aid kit*: 1 tensor bandage, various sized adhesive bandages, anti-septic wipes, 1 small tube Advil 400 mg, 4 Benedryl pills, 4 Claratin pills, 2 gauze pads, 1 roll adhesive tape, 1 reflective blanket
1 pair sunglasses/case
1 thin wallet with ID, health card, debit/credit card and cash
1 small flashlight
1 small can pepper-spray*
Travel Foods – supplemented with food box and misc local purchases
6 packaged assorted baby food purees
1 package small tortilla wraps
1 half-package pre-cooked seasoned chicken
4 Clif bars
4 dried meat sticks – Valhalla
1 package smoked cheese
4 premade overnight oats in Ziploc bags*
1 tube NUUN tablets
The one item I didn’t pack and wish I had brought!
1 ball-cap or brimmed hat for afternoon/evenings
*Items I didn’t use
Bike shops that helped me gear up for this trip
B&P Cycle & Sports
Mountain Equipment Co-op
McQueen’s Bike Shop (Charlottetown)
It all feels like a dream. I've re-read my blog posts, scrolled through my photos and put away all my gear. It really happened and I'm still in awe of it all. This is what I learned:
1 - Set the Goal. Make the Plan. Do the Steps.
This whole bike tour trip idea started last spring as a way to reconnect with my roots after I learned of a memorial being held for my Dad at the Atlantic Police Academy on September 1st. The day was going to be a very emotional; bringing together lots of family, friends and former colleagues of my dad to the unveiling of a memorial wall at the Academy. So how was I going to process this event and connect with as many family members as I could? I had wanted to do a bike tour so the idea of cycling across the Island seemed like the best way to combine a lot of good things together. The goal was set and a plan came together as I took the steps to get there. Simple when it's broken down but really daunting when I first set out on this idea.
2 - Self Doubt is Insignificant when You are Supported
I cannot accurately express just how much I self-doubted myself throughout this whole process. As I neared the departure date I was struck by ridiculous fears of complete failure and a lot of "what's the point" downward spiral depressive thoughts. Until the moment when my aunt was driving away, after sharing a heart-felt prayer for me at the North Cape lighthouse, and I started pedaling on my own it all seemed like it would never all come together and that I was actually going to bike across a whole province. Luckily I have an amazing support network of friends and family that were cheering me on throughout the this journey in a variety of ways. From texts and family group messages sent full of support and encouragement, phone calls and social media comments from near and far asking how I was doing while planning and on trail, to words of wisdom and insight from bike shop staffers and fellow bike tourers. It was more than I could have ever expected and my self-doubt died peacefully on that trail. It didn't matter how far I went each day or even if I finished... the fact that I did the work to get there, started when I said I would and ultimately completed a goal that I set myself out to do is what ended up mattering the most to me. This bike tour was, by far, the biggest goal (adventure, personal or professional) I've accomplished and I think that's pretty fucking awesome!!
3 - Prepare for the Worst - Hope for the Best
I brought along a lot of gear that I ended up not even using once throughout the whole trip. However, had I needed any of it when needed I would've been extremely pissed off knowing that I wasn't prepared. Rain gear for inclement weather that didn't happen. CO2 cartridges for flat tires that I didn't have to deal with. Random pieces of camping gear that I didn't have to use because every night I either had a roof over my head or access to a cottage/home's facilities. Although I carried all the extra weight of the self-supporting gear when I didn't need it most of the time, I now like to think that it was preparing me for my next adventure. I learned about balancing weight on my bike, how to pack pannier most efficiently throughout this trip, and how I'd organize myself better for the next adventure. All very valuable knowledge! I started with this list and crossed out a lot of it as it didn't pertain to this particular trip. Then trimmed that list further. Afterwards, I figured out what I already had vs. what I would need to buy or borrow. Nearly everything fit in two Ortlieb pannier bags but I still needed to carry a backpack for some lighter items that I wanted to have easy-access to (cell phone, sunscreen, sunglass/glasses case, etc.). Carrying a backpack for the trip was not optimal but trying to find a bar bag that would fit around my handlebars' special configuration (it has two sets of brake levers) turned out to be a far greater challenge than I expected. Of course, I left this key decision to the last minute, as time and money were running short. So I used what I had and it worked.
4 - Have a Plan but Go With the Flow
There was a very short list of what I had planned for this trip:
- Start pedaling on September 2 from the west end/North Cape
- Bike until I reached the East Point.
Seriously. I gave myself an 8-day window to complete the journey and there was one big family event and an invitation to attend a wedding that I was going to try to attend but neither were a priority. I hadn't pre-booked cottage stays (with family or otherwise) or pre-planned any camping locations. I had an idea of how far I could bike in a day but had never ridden this bike with as much weight as all my gear added up to for any distance on a gravel trail. I had no idea what was going to happen. I went with the flow, accepted invitations to dinners and night's stays as they were offered, ate trail-side lunches on my own or with other travelers at restaurants and altered my route when it felt right. Going with the flow with whatever came my way turned out perfectly. These things cannot be planned but being open to opportunities sure can.
5 - You're Stronger Than You Think
I've been a proponent of mind-over-matter thinking for a while as it has worked well for me (for the most part) in the past for other physical challenges. Training for a multi-day bike tour is possible but nothing could have really prepared me for what I experienced. Currently living and cycling in Calgary and area certainly helped my legs and lungs be ready for the flat trail and hilly roads at Island's sea-level altitude. However, the humidity and heat was not expected midway through the trip. Had I consistently checked the weather forecast I certainly would've succumbed to defeat under the sweltering humidex temperatures. Lots of water with added electrolytes, sugary food fuel and plenty of breaks under shade was the magic combination for me and it worked. Forecasts be damned!
Throughout this amazing journey I strived to stay present and enjoy every moment because I really had no other place to be! It was wonderful and the next adventure is still in the idea stage but it's a growing goal :)
After a restless sleep under the stars due to humidity and excitement I was packed up and ready for the last leg of the tip-to-tip! I stopped in at the information centre to ask where along the way I could pick up some snacks and any highlights on this section of the trail and was bluntly told that there was nothing. "Just farm fields" she tells me. Not great so I head to the town's gas station for some coffee, orange juice and some blueberry pastry things to fire up the engine for the day's ride.
The trail is actually much like the rest: awesome. Long stretches of tree lined trail and a bunch of spots open to the fields beside. I hear all sorts of birds and crickets galore.
Just before Harmony Junction I stopped at a huge conservation area. Two other cyclists were already there and we start chatting and I learn that they are siblings (probably in their late 50s), born and raised in the area and they cycle together whenever possible on the trail. We talk about other parts of the trail I've seen, the wildlife and bugs. I learn that the Island had a significant bat population that was struck with a disease that nearly killed them all. They are slowly coming back but the effect of losing these key players in the local ecology created a huge influx of bugs that were no longer being eaten by bats. I had noticed a lot of dragonflies while cycling throughout the trip and wondered if the lack of bats surged their population to try and keep some balance. It was a great talk and I get back on the trail and take a photo at the junction trail marker just around the bend.
At my cycling pace the final 15 km would take me just under and hour. I felt all sorts of emotions about finishing and posted the trail marker sign to Facebook and Instagram to share my location with all who have been following me along this journey. A few minutes later my phone rings and it's my biological father (aka bio-Dad ;), Gerard, calling from England to tell me he had seen my recent post and wanted to let me know he was proud of me. Oh man... the waterworks were in full effect. It's just a quick call and we say our goodbyes so I can finish what I started and the last few kilometres did not disappoint! The overhanging trees were gorgeous and I even saw a hawk of somesort flying overhead for a stretch. So cool.
Just when I think there couldn't be anymore surprises along the trail I come across an information placard describing a natural spring that is accessible from the trail. So I lean my bike on the placard pole and go for a little walk up a sandy dirt road to find the spring. I'm not 20 paces in and I hear some cyclists come up behind me and it's the brother and sister I met at the conservation spot before the junction! We find the spring not far up the road and I get my thermos out to use the lid as a cup. The water was so refreshing and exactly what I needed to finish this trip. I couldn't capture the bubbling of the water up from the earth in a photo but this place was certainly magical and I hope to come back!
The three of us head back to the trail and the siblings go off ahead of me as I was slower than them with my gear and I wanted to experience the last of the trail solo.
From the springs it was only 9 km to Elmira. As I neared the end I felt sad that the tour was coming to an end but was so pumped that I actually did it, in my own way and enjoyed every moment to the fullest.
With the trail behind me I only had a few kilometers left to reach the lighthouse at East Point. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there as many tourist attractions shut down after Labour Day weekend. Happily I found this place was hopping with visitors and the shop and cafe were busy! Also, the couple I met in Greenwich who were cycling on tandems were there too! They were a bit shocked that I'd make the whole leg in a day and I guess 56 km is a bit of a stretch but after all I'd done it didn't feel that far at all.
First order of business when I arrived was to get food! Lobster Mac n' Cheese and a celebratory beer... Yes, please!
After my delicious lunch I walk around the grounds, take some pictures and see the ferry that goes to Îles de la Madeleine round the point.
My awesome cousin Laura comes to pick me up, we pack my bike and gear in to her vehicle and headed back to Charlottetown. We chat about the trip and how the last two days went. It feels like we're travelling at lightning speed after being at a bike pace for so long. Ha!
This adventure is technically over but the stories and memories will last forever. It's taken me a few days to write about this last tour day as it didn't seem real that I did it or that it was over. I had set out on a goal, asked for help when I needed it, had the love and support of wonderful friends and family throughout the whole process and I cycled over 400 km on this bike tour! It's been quite the journey and I'm excited for what's next :)
After a hearty breakfast and coffee I was heading back to the trail a bit after 8 am. Since the day's heat was forecasted to be close (aka hot and humid to the non-Islander ;) again I figured it would be wise to get a slightly earlier start to the day. Honestly, it didn't matter too much because I still ended up exploring by bike for hours after I reached my destination... But there was a solid wind throughout so it wasn't too bad after panniers were dropped off in the afternoon. I should start from the beginning though...
I stopped a few times along the trail to read more information placards. Learned about salt marshes, the first white settlers and the Island's farmed shellfish industry history.
When I arrived in Morell I stopped at the cutest train station turned information centre with a coffee/ice cream shop/book store/canoe/kayak rental place called Kingfisher Outdoors. After I wrote about Day 5's adventures on the shaded deck space I figured an ice cream was in order. Of course, I get chatting with the lady working there, Donna, and find out she runs the place. We have a great chat and she asks me where I've been staying overnight along my trip. I mention all the family homes and cottages I've been able to include on this tour but that I was aiming to stay at the St. Peters campground. She then offers the yard of her cottage that is maybe few hundred meters west of the campground! Classic and heartwarming hospitality!!
I do get that ice cream cone and Donna shows me what her cottage looks like on her facebook page as it's available for rent through too (Will add the link once I find it again!). I eventually get on my way as the day's temperature is getting quite warm and the humidity is rising which made the whole day feel slow and tiring. Nonetheless I had a destination to get to and more exploring to do!
Along the trail between Morell and St. Peters is quite beautiful since a large portion of it has views of the bay to the north. I make it to the cottage at around 12:30 pm, set up my tent, and get prepped for an afternoon of cycling and exploring the Greenwich Sand Dunes National Park on the other side of the bay.
I start my journey to Greenwich and the wind is fierce... And I'm also hungry! Along the road to the park there's a small place called Lin's Take Out. Kinda like a permanent food truck style where you order at the window and have a number to pick it up once it's ready. I get the seafood platter which is all deep fried (usual preperation method on the Island) and a pickeled egg! I devoured nearly the whole meal too... Cycling calories, right?!
A couple also having lunch spark up a conversation with me as being a solo-woman traveller on a bike certainly piques people's interest. They recently moved to NS from Ontario, have family ties to the Island and love the East coast vibe. We chat about the pace of life here, the need for creative businesses to spark the economy and the societal issues of being "from away". They were so sweet wishing me well as we said our goodbyes before parting ways :)
I carry on with a belly full of grease and it's a hard push to the park with a headwind that won't quit. No matter though as I had no time limit and just enjoyed the views for the next few kilometers.
Upon reaching the park I notice that the entrance road is named the same as the lane that lead to my aunt and uncle's place from the day before!
I head further in to the park and find the trailhead to the floating walkway and sand dunes. Oh my... What a sight!!
I spent some time just walking along the water, taking photos and enjoying the sites. The wind didn't really allow much sitting on the sand time as it would sand blast everything in it's path.
I start to head back to my bike as I left it at the start of the floating boardwalk and find a note from a couple that I had chatted with on the way in to the dunes! We had crossed paths twice already (once at Emerald Junction and they saw me as I was cycling through Rustico area the day before!). They left me their names and address to keep in touch! Loving the travelling friend vibes and connections!!
I cycle around another trail at the park and read more information placards. A few of them actually included Mi'kmaq language translations! This Island has over 10,000 years of Mi'kmaq history so to finally see a few acknowledgments of their story was a great sight... But clearly more should be shared with locals and visitors alike.
As I was starting to feel tired I figured it was time to start heading back to St. Peters for some dinner. Happily though the wind stayed at my back and it was a quite whip back to town. Haha!
Made my way to the famous Rick's Fish and Chips but couldn't take anymore deep-fried foods... So ordered a marinated mussel salad with a side of oysters and a locally brewed pint to top it off. So good!
I head back to the cottage camp spot and meet the sweetest Aussie friend of Donna's who was staying there. She tells me that she was heading out shortly to meet up with Donna for wingnight at a local pub and asked if I wanted to join! Well of course!! So I get cleaned up from the day's riding and exploring and put on my best travel t-shirt and yoga pants (so classy, huh!) and we head out for the night.
We listen to some great local talent playing covers of classic songs, chat about travelling and brain-storm business ideas to get me back to the Island and making money! Great laughs with fun new friends :)
Back at the cottage camp spot I take off the tent's fly as it was unlikely to rain overnight and I was able to sleep under the stars again. Amazing end to another amazing bike touring day.
After a restful sleep at the cottage I was packed up and on my way by around 9:30 am.
It didn't take long to get in to a nice pace on the road and settle in for the morning's ride. As I made my way through Bedeque I stopped to say hello to a man who had a cute dark brindle Boston Terrier named Annie! I think she and Harold would be great friends!
Not far afterwards I knew I would be crossing the highway so I picked up the pace to warm up the legs. As it turns out there is a speed detector sign on the road and I was clearly under the limit ;)
I made it across the highway with no problem and I was on my way to Freetown where I would reconnect with the Confederation Trail. Of course, there are no shoulders on any of these roads. At one point I went off the road on purpose because there were so many cars. However, when I was only a few meters from getting back on the trail I nearly got clipped by someone who needed all the road and could not have slowed down for a second to get to where they were going. Many loud words and hand gestures were directed at the driver but I suspect they didn't even bother to look back.
Feeling a bit raged from the near-miss I worked on getting back in the flow on the trail. Happily not even 5 km later I crossed paths with a large cycling group out for a holiday Monday ride together. We discuss my tour and the general bike culture on the Island with the need for more visibility from the cycling community and guided change of mindset from the population to include cyclists rights to use the roads. It's a change and the Island is certainly not a fan of change...
I carry on and enjoy the views on the trail. From flat fields to rolling hills along the way with cows and steep shoulders off the trail.
After a small bite to eat at Emerald Junction, I realize that I'm over half way on the trail distance. Since I've done off trail and a bit of detours this isn't all "official" but thought it was quite the milestone to reach on my halfway day!
Not too far after lunch I planned to go off-trail again to pay my respects to family buried at Floral Hills. This detour would take me on another major highway but not for long and the shoulders were wide. I most certainly felt safer here than on the country roads!
I reconnected with the trail in Fredericton (yes... On PEI) and made my way to Hunter River. From there I wasn't too sure where I was going to go or how I was going to get there but figured it would work itself out. And boy did it ever!
As I arrived at the trail/road intersection I stop to read a bunch of the local history placards and notice a group of three 30-somethings in the parking lot with vintage cruiser-style bikes. We start chatting and one of the fellas owns/works a bike shop in Halifax (which I cannot remember the name 😒) and was delivering a new/old set of wheels to his buddy on the Island with his girlfriend. We have a great chat, they share some trail-hoots and recommend a bakery up the road in Hunter River. We bid farewell and I venture in to town to find the bake shop. I lean my bike outside and start fiddling with my phone to stop tracking on the Strava app as I walk in the shop. When I look up I see my cousin Sue who was at the family get-together the day before at the cottage! We laugh and she buys me an ice cream cone (awesome!) and we go chat with her folks who were waiting for her in the car outside. They headed off to continue their touristy adventures and I head back in to the bake shop for another bite to eat.
As I eat my sandwich and fries and text my cousin Laura and she tells me that she and our aunt Liz are in Cavendish and asked if I wanted to be picked up. Well heck ya! The road from Hunter River is narrow, windy and, of course, no shoulder. Sadly a lady was killed by a drunk driver a few years ago while on her bike here so getting to Cavendish and the North shore is treacherous for cyclists and walkers. Having the pick-up completely removed that danger and it gave us more visiting time! We stopped for some snacks in Cavendish and I horsed around ;)
According to my map there was camping near Orby Head and it looked like a great spot to watch the water and chill for the night. Well the map was wrong but Laura has connections with the folks that run the White Sands cottages nearby and I splurged for the night! The access road connects to the shore road in the park so once I was changed out of the day's cycling clothes I got back on the bike to explore the park a bit and find some wine and snacks for the evening.
Smelling much better from a shower and a belly full of local snacks and ferments I get to bed early and have a great sleep.
I'm finishing this post as I sit on a bench on the east side of the park with the Gulf of St. Lawrence out to the horizon, listening to all sorts of birds chirps and cricket calls, and now a group of chatty francophone women cyclists have gathered in the parking lot. Amazing morning :) Heading to Tracadie Bay today!
After Saturday night's firepit, bottle of wine and lots of great convo I was able to get packed up and back on the trail by about 9:30 am on Sunday morning. First stop was less than 6 km east in Linkletter to visit some old family friends that I haven't seen in a very long time!
I also started my off trail road riding experience today and got used to the fact that on most of the Island roads there are no shoulders so cycling here can be a bit nerve wracking. However, this first shorter distance wasn't too bad.
I had another stop on my way through Summerside which was another short 6 km east. The road had a bit more shoulder and once I was down by the shore I was able to reconnect with the trail easily. Being Sunday morning helped as traffic was quiet too. One odd experience while I was standing and off the seat of my bike looking at my phone a few meters away from an intersection of the trail and a road trying to sort out where I was vs. where I wanted to get to. Three vehicles stopped and honked at me to cross! I had my head down reading the map on my screen and when I looked up and waved them through - the pissed off looks I received from the drivers was a shock! It's Sunday morning people... In Summerside... Chill out!
After a quick visit and chat with a few more Deveau family I was on my way again. This time I knew I was going to be going off trail and on to a major highway to get to my next destination: Fernwood/Seacow Head! The highway has a substantially wide shoulder and the grade is far more varied than the trails' +/- 2% so I got in to a good pace and hoped for the best. Happily I made it to Central Bedeque without any scares and started down roads I haven't been on in ages.
I was headed to a big Reeves family gathering and there's only one road to the cottage so the likelihood that I'd know most of the people passing me in cars was high. Not long before Fernwood Road I see a hand waving out the passenger window of a passing SUV. It was my Aunt Liz and Uncle Bob and they stopped for a picture of me along my way!
I arrived close to 2 pm after a ~24 km ride from Summerside to a cottage sea shore party to celebrate by cousin's 35th anniversary of her 30th birthday!! There was lots of laughs, memories and so much food! At the end of it all we had the most hilarious time getting a "Cousins Photo" with all us... We were all laughing and trying to get everyone together in one shot and there was about a dozen cameras/phones. I think we look like a pretty great bunch :)
After everyone had left only my cousin Tara and I stayed at the cottage. It was a gorgeous evening and we walked on the beach as the tide was out until past sunset. Life doesn't get much better than this!
My plan was to set up my tent outside the cottage listening to the tide come in overnight and watch the stars. Well... Suddenly it was pitch black out (no light pollution here!) and the wind picked up so it was easy to change my mind to take a spare bed in the cottage instead ;)
Now to pack up, have a bite to eat and make my way back to the trail for Day 4!!
I checked out of the cottage and was on my way by 9:00 am. Stopped at the east gate to Cavendish park for a nice view to write about Day 4's adventure then it was time to get on with the day. Nearly all road riding and certainly not the most enjoyable but it was what had to happen to get to where I wanted to go!
The morning was overcast and super humid. Since I was on hilly roads and lighting was a bit flat taking pictures along the way was much less a priority than being aware of vehicles and possible exit strategies when being passed should someone veer in my direction... Happily I didn't have too many scares and reached Brackley Beach safely!
Once I reached Brackley Beach I was back on a separate paved trail and pedalled my way to Richard's in the Covehead area of the park. When I arrived everything was boarded up and initially I thought it closed after Labour Day along with a whole lot of other businesses on the Island. Happily a travelling couple who thought the same had found out that the place opened at noon so we all had time to take photos around the dock and I had time to stretch a bit and ready my belly for a feed of lobster!!
I ended up sitting with the travelling couple, June and Doug, and we had a great time sharing our stories and experiences on the Island. After we hugged goodbye and parted ways I needed to fill my water bottles and visit the washroom one more time before getting back on the trail. Just as I was about to head to my bike, a lovely Québécois lesbian couple stopped me to chat about my tour as they too were touring the Island but rather than the full tip-to-tip they had a van and Brompton (folding) bikes to do day trips with. We shared funny observations about the Island and bike touring stories. After a few good laughs their food was ready and we waved goodbye as I got on my way...
The afternoon skies cleared and it got HOT! Although talking about the weather is the provincial past-time here I try to just deal with whatever I'm experiencing and carry-on. If I had known it was pushing +37C with the humidity I'm sure my head would've been overcome with self-doubt that I wouldn't make it to the day's destination.
I had heard my phone buzz indicating a text message but still riding on the side of a shoulder-less road didn't allow for anywhere to stop. Also, with no shade I was sure I'd burn on the spot. Finally I spotted a church steeple and figured there would be a tree or two to take a break and figure out how far I was from where I needed to be. The moment I made sat down I hear my phone buzzing again but this time it was a phone call from my aunt Liz wondering where I was. I'm all out of breath, soaked from sweat and in need of a sugar-boost. I find out I'm only a few kms away from their cottage so I have a macaroon, a chocolate bar and chug a bottle of water and get on my way again! My uncle Bob meets me on the road and escorts me in to their property...
We have a great visit and a fill of tasty bbq and chowder. I learn/relearn all sorts of Island-isms and the laughs were enough to bring a few cottage neighbours over to join the fun!!
I'm already halfway through Day 6 as I write this as I was hoping to get ahead of the day's heat... The breeze is a blessing as I sit outside the Morell trail intersection stop. Heading to St. Peters and the Greenwich Sand Dunes today!
After yesterday's distance, today was semi-planned to be much shorter... Like only 20 km of cycling before catching up with some family in Miscouche before attending a wedding in Wellington. So this post is much more about visiting but starts with a bit of cycling.
After an amazing rest and breakfast at my family's place in Mont Carmel we visited the local church for an impromptu history lesson. The Catholic community in these parts has been around for generations and the big old church and headstone filled graveyard with three predominant family names was clear evidence of that!
A lot of my family were born in this region, married at this church and some are buried next to it.
Although I'm not Catholic (or religious for that matter) visiting such sites has always fascinated me. Sadly, the church isn't open to the public and we couldn't have a look inside. Which considering the state of the church it would be in their best interest to invite visitors of all faiths and backgrounds as I suspect that this structure will be in a sad state of disrepair in a very short time.
So after a walk through cemetery we headed back to Richmond and I could start the day's short ride.
It was a beautiful day with sunny skies and a bit of a breeze. I waved goodbye and was back on the trail around 10:30 am. Not long after I left Richmond there was a trail/dirt road crossing ahead and I saw my aunt and uncle's truck pulling up to the intersection. I immediately assume I forgot something in their vehicle but they hopped out clapping their hands with Acadian fiddle music blasting from the stereo and cheered me through the chicane fences at the road! Such a fun trail surprise!!
Didn't take long to get to Miscouche and stop for the day's ride at my cousin Steve's place who lives right beside the trail!! After a catch-up and clean-up another cousin, Danielle, picked me up as we were going to a backyard wedding in Wellington!
It certainly was a beautiful day for a wedding and although I didn't know the bride and groom, my cousin Leah and her husband, Tucker (brother to the bride) were the witnesses, my uncle Leo and Coral attended as well and my aunt Stella officiated the ceremony! It was her first wedding to officiate too!!
After the wedding, back at Steve's, we had a firepit and lots of great chatting for the evening. I had set up my tent in their backyard and since I didn't need to put the fly on I fell asleep under the stars and slept so well!
Now to pack up and hit the trail for Day 3! It will be longer than yesterday but more family and fun times are on the agenda :)