New Brunswick Staycation Ride #2: Go North, young man

This shut-down road (bridge repairs) turned out to be the perfect place for a photo shoot. For once, NB's crumbling public infrastructure works out to our advantage.

What to do, when you can’t leave the province? Continue exploring the corners you’d normally never ride to, that’s what. In this Staycation ride (Part II in a series), Zac finally makes it to northern New Brunswick, meets a nice traffic cop, and narrowly emerges with an unscathed wallet …

COVID-19 meant the end of ride-around-Cape-Breton plans for the May long weekend. Instead, I headed to northern New Brunswick with riding buddies Matt and Evan. Matt was on a Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Evan on a ratty Kawasaki KLR650, and me on my Yamaha WR250R. 

That’s a big power differential, but with almost the entire trip on small two-lane roads, it wasn’t too bad. Day 1 took us from Saint John to Bouctouche, with a good rip through the Fundy Adventure Rally’s stomping grounds. Day 2 took us from Bouctouche to Bathurst, following the coast to see what was there. It was mostly slow, straight roads through fishing villages, but some very cool infrastructure along the way: Peat farms, wind farms, boatyards, and so on. That’s a change of scenery from the Fundy coast that we usually ride, at least, and we finally made it to scenic Miscou Island at the top of the Acadian Peninsula (lots of beaches and a lighthouse, in case you wondered).

Late evenings in the saddle meant closed dining rooms in Bouctouche, result in in the ol’ “Strap a pizza to the KLR top box” trick coming in handy once again.
Long, empty beaches at the tip of Miscou Island.

It was a good time, much better than sitting at a desk and staring out the office window, but hardly the sort of trip that you’d reminisce over for years to come. No major highs or lows, no truly top-tier roads, no close calls. That was all about to change, though.

A good day’s ride

As we started Day 3. the scenery was changing along the Bay of Chaleur, with soggy marshes replaced by rolling hills, small farm fields, and broken-down infrastructure. Northern New Brunswick, it seems, is Atlantic Canada’s Rust Belt. We could see much larger mountains looming on the other side, in Quebec, promising deliciously fun twisties. We couldn’t cross over to see them, but it made us that much more determined to take our adventure bikes into the Gaspe as soon as it was reasonable to do so.

Fishing boats awaiting a re-fit in Bas-Caraquet.
The signage tips you off: You’re not in an anglophone community anymore.
The Bay of Chaleur offers a mix of beaches, farm fields and mountains. And lots of rocks and trees.
The abandoned Brunswick Smelter in Belledune. The Rust Belt of the Maritimes …

Back in NB, the riding was still mostly easy-going stuff—until after lunch, when we found the all-too-short Route 270 south of Campbellton. Our luck was changing! This is the kind of road that any keen rider is constantly on the look-out for, a twisty riverside run that makes you want to go back and strafe it again. To make it even better, we were finally headed into some mountains as we left the coast. Everything was coming up Milhouse! Even Route 17, the two-lane highway that crosses the north of the province, had the Appalachian range to show us. I was stretched out over the WR’s gas tank, like an overweight Aerostiched Rollie Free, trying to flog the little 250 up the big grades at something close to big-bike speeds. It was all good times, until …

Coming down a highway grade into Kedgwik, Matt may have, er, committed a traffic indiscretion, followed by myself and Evan. And there may have been an RCMP corporal parked at the bottom of the hill at a gas station, and she may have nabbed all three of us in one go, as we pulled off for fuel. And then, her partner might have come by for a quick chat, leaving everyone in the small town with the impression there was a Big Biker Bust going on. At least the corporal involved with this hypothetical incident was a motorcyclist herself, and very understanding.

Thankfully, if such an incident actually occurred, there were no expensive tickets issued, so our wives can’t get mad at us (unless they read this story). So please, nobody tell them, otherwise they might not let us all go riding together again.

We very much minded our P’s and Q’s riding around Mount Carleton. This isn’t a really tight road, but the curves through the Appalachians are constant.

After Kedgwik, we hit the Route 185-380 combo that takes you around Mount Carleton Provincial Park (while carefully observing the speed limits!). Our luck continued! This is basically a paved logging road, but seems to get little big-truck traffic, as the pavement was in much better shape than expected. It’s not tight, but it is curvaceous, eventually following the Tobique River. Again, this classic follow-the-river run is the stuff most serious riders are looking for, with no traffic and miles and miles without any development. The few houses you see are mostly fishing camps. It’s the sort of gorgeous country that just makes you feel good to be out on a motorcycle, especially when the sun is shining.

To top it off, we had the best of accommodations, a camp on the side of the Tobique, secured by Evan via family connections. Instead of haggling over prices with jaded hoteliers, we were able to fire up a barbecue and watch the sun set over the river. This had to be one of the best wind-downs I’ve ever had after a long day’s ride, especially on a day where things could have gone far, far worse in our earlier (hypothetical) encounter with the traffic police.

Much better than the Super 8! Evan’s insider connections resulted in this gorgeous riverside cottage on the Tobique.
Views to unwind to.

The ride home

And then it was Monday, time to ride home. We ended up doing this in a very straighforward run down the St. John River, along the 105 to Fredericton, then through Harvey to the 101, down to Saint John.

This is mostly familiar territory for us, and we would have liked to explore further—a detour towards Charlotte County would have added another half day’s worth of gravel roads and twisties, even some coastal roads. At this point, though, it was time to get home while the sun was shining and get ready for the work week ahead. So that was it: Friday evening on the road, Saturday, Sunday, and then home by Monday mid-afternoon.

Not a very long trip in the grand scheme of things, really. But, we’d accomplished two goals. Even though we hadn’t left the province, we’d managed to explore some new territory we hadn’t seen before, and even found some excellent twisties.

The gas station counter in Plaster Rock carries trophy shots of all the big deer shot in the area over the past years.
Hiding from the sun, but not able to evade the black flies, during an ice cream break. Zac’s *really* worried he’ll have to move in here, if his wife finds out about his almost-ticket.

The real accomplishment, though: Just plain getting into Road Mode. We’d managed to achieve that state of calmness that hits after a couple of days’ travel, the internal Zen that comes from watching things work themselves out—whether it be weather, route decisions, or hypothetical close calls with traffic enforcement.

It’s June tomorrow, and supposedly the Atlantic Bubble will open up soon. Depending on exactly how the regulations work out, Matt and I, along with some other guys, are planning to ride to Newfoundland this year. This ride was sort of a training event for that expedition. Maybe it will work out, maybe not, but I’m not concerned. If we can’t leave New Brunswick, we’ll just go find some more adventures here at home. The plan has been working well so far.



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