Photos: Zac Kurylyk
Why go for a ride in the early-season cold?
Sometimes, it’s just to just to re-visit back roads that you haven’t ridden since last season. That’s why I headed up Rt. 102, from Saint John to Moncton, last Sunday. It’s not like I had a lot of choice, anyway. I couldn’t leave New Brunswick, to head to Nova Scotia or PEI or Quebec or New England or anything fun.
Besides, I wanted to do my first overnight trip for 2021, but riding Kawasaki’s new KLX300, I didn’t fancy flogging it down the highway too far from home. It was too cold for camping, so I opted for an overnight ride to my sister’s place on the Acadian shore, in Cocagne.
Month after month, since the pandemic hit Canada, I’ve been frustrated over the inability to travel, but I will say this. Riding up 102, which follows the curves of the St. John River, I was thankful I have it so good. The scenery right here at home is beautiful—farms, forests, ferries, and not a police car in sight. Not that I was in too much danger of a speeding ticket anyway. The KLX is perfectly suited for this sort of road, mostly hanging around 80 km/h. Nobody was in of a hurry, not even me.
Why pick a certain road, over another?
After a mid-ride gas-up, I plugged my sister’s Cocagne address into the GPS, and opted for “Adventurous Routing.” Why not let the GPS pick the route for me?
It all started off great, down Rt. 121 through Norton and up to Sussex. Gorgeous farmland, the Kennebecasis River, good pavement, all good times. But then the GPS wanted me to head through the centre of Sussex, down the four-lane highway, and—I stopped following the GPS instructions, and steered for the Knightville Road instead.
The GPS wasn’t happy. Every few minutes, it would try to send me in another direction. But, I hadn’t been on the Knightville Road in years, and I was enjoying the change in scenery.
I could see why Garmin wanted me to travel another route, though. The pavement through the Knightville route is cratered, like a moonscape. And while some of the barns are well-kept, others are falling in. Peeling paint, rotten beams exposed, tattered sheet metal roofs flapping in the wind. Both public and private infrastructure always straddle the line between excellence and entropy in rural New Brunswick. Some farmers push to preserve their family’s heritage, others give up. Roadbuilders seem to echo the locals’ sentiment. That’s probably why Garmin wanted to send me elsewhere.
Some of the corners in this area are just plain dangerous, with heavy sand coating the pavement no matter what time of year it is. Things improved when I got north of Havelock, though, picking side roads at random, as long as they headed northerly, continuing to ignore the GPS’s angry buzzing. By the time I hit Salisbury, the Garmin gave up. I made Cocagne a few minutes before dark, feeling I’d done a better job of navigation anyway. I’d even seen a few places I couldn’t recall ever having ridden through before. Even COVID-19 couldn’t keep me from discovering new roads.
Why take the long way home, when it’s raining?
I had some rain gear to test, but that wasn’t the only reason to go out of my way. If I retraced my steps from the day before, I could have been home in under three hours. I wanted to see the ocean coastline, though—Riverside-Albert, Alma, and onwards. I wanted to see the area the Fundy Adventure Rally had traveled.
The weather worked out, too. The rain let up once I cleared Moncton, with only occasional spits from the low-lying clouds scudding around the Albert County hills. It seems like the weather is always crappy when I ride through here, but the scenery is always worth it. The roads are fun, too, if you watch for potholes and mid-corner gravel. You learn to keep your eyes open in this country, and a dual sport bike makes a lot more sense than a cruiser.
I was cold, but the heated vest kept me going, down Rt. 112, through the Sawmill Creek gravel road sections, down bumpy Rt. 915, through Alma, through the national park, and down the unpaved Shepody Road. The sign at the end still says Road Closed due to the constant construction, but it didn’t say to keep out. I took my chances; the Shepody was loose, with little traffic to pack it down this year, and some areas were very slicked-up with clay, but there was no construction to get through.
The little KLX needed a break by the end, and so did I. Time for a late lunch at Adair’s Wilderness Lodge, and a chat with the owner about the years we ran the Fundy Rally there. The Lodge’s business is obviously much-affected by pandemic restrictions, but a massive increase in local ATV traffic has somewhat offset the decrease in out-of-province visitors. On this chilly afternoon, though, I had the dining room to myself.
I had the roads to myself, too, as I continued south towards home, diving down every side lane that looked potentially interesting. I ended up behind an RCMP cruiser eventually, but even he was polite enough to pull off the road and pull a U-turn in the other direction. I don’t know why, but I didn’t complain—I gave him a friendly wave as I passed, then picked up the pace as soon as I was sure he wasn’t now following me. Such trickery is unheard-of in New Brunswick, but you never know. It could have been someone transferred in from elsewhere, who doesn’t share the local officers’ laissez-faire attitude towards motorcyclists.
By supper, I was home. The day’s ride took me longer than expected, but I’d managed to once again find some roads I hadn’t been down before. I’d managed to get to that state of man-machine mind meld that takes over on every truly good ride. And, I’d reminded myself that even if the only moto-trips I take in 2021 are staycation jaunts around the province, there are still lots of great things to see. There are far, far worse places to be stuck at home.