I love America. There is no where I’d rather live than the U.S.A., but I do like to visit other places! It’s like the microcosm that is my neighborhood. My house is my home. It’s where I’m most comfortable and safe. It’s my favorite place to use the potty. That being said, I still like to visit my neighbors, eat their food, learn their stories, and pee in their swimming pools. I’m probably not a very good neighbor.
Canada is my closest neighbor and I’m a big fan. When it comes to Niagara Falls, Canada does it way better than the U.S. We have a park with a decent view. They have a great view and a tacky, tourist town! But this post isn’t about Niagara. This post is about the best road trip I’ve ever taken. For my 30th birthday I spent 5 days experiencing New Brunswick. What a gorgeous, friendly place it is!
This was the first trip that I rented a car for. I will never drive my personal vehicle on a multi-day road trip again. The Trip coming up in 2017 will run over 8,000 miles in a 20 day period. I do not want that wear and tear on my Jeep. I’ve only put 12k miles on it so far in the year I’ve owned it. Beyond that, for me, renting a car adds more to the vacation. Not only am I in a new environment, sleeping in a new bed, and eating new food, I’m driving a new car. It takes me even further away from my normal life. For my Canada trip I rented this new-at-the-time HHR. It was a fun ride and even managed to go off-road a little. It had a terrible blind spot but once I realized that I was able to adjust.
The first night of the trip I slept in Lowell, MA home of fellow traveler, Jack Kerouac. Not only was Jack born in the town, his body now rests there. I felt a fitting start to a road trip was to pay my respects to the man who wrote one of the greatest road trip books ever, On the Road. I felt it was bad taste that people left alcohol for him considering his excessive drinking is what ultimately killed him. I’d like to remember him as a writer and poet, not a disenchanted drunk. I did appreciate the letter-soup fabric someone left.
On my way out of the cemetery I found one of the best stones ever! It blew my mind! My family has been making deliveries for generations. We never thought about taking anybody home.
After a brief stop in Freeport, ME for some shopping, I headed further north.
North of Freeport the fog began creeping in. For the remainder of the day I was driving with limited visibility but it made for a beautiful trip through the wilderness. I would frequently not be able to see a quarter mile out then hit the top of a mountain and be above the clouds. Eventually I crossed a bridge and found myself in Canada! Obviously I had to take a few pictures at the welcome area to celebrate my first time visiting my neighbor to the north.
A couple of hours later and I pulled into the St. Martins Country Inn located, of course, in St. Martins, New Brunswick. It was a lovely place and the people were wonderful. The only sad part was we showed up well after dinner and the one restaurant in the secluded town was closed. My first night in Canada was a hungry night.
My bedroom had a hot tub in it! Since then I’ve stayed in several places with full hot tubs in the room, but at the time this was new to me and I felt like a king! My only complaint was the shower. As you can see from the picture there is a weird slant to the ceiling. On the other side of that back wall was the shower with the same slant (see below). I’m only 5’8″ and even I had to crouch awkwardly to wash my hair. Awkward shower or not, I’d totally stay there again.
One of the greatest attractions on the coast of New Brunswick is the Bay of Fundy. What makes this bay special is that it has the highest tides in the world. The difference between high tide and low tide can be up to 5 stories worth of water (50+ feet). The water flow in and out of the bay everyday is greater than the water flow from all freshwater rivers on Earth combined! When the tide goes out, the water retreats to such a level that docks are left dry, so the moored boats just lie on the bay floor.
Day 3 of my trip took me to St. John’s, the largest city in New Brunswick. I spent a lot of time on and in the water during my time there. Before I set out on all my mad capped adventures, however, I ate lunch at the St. John City Market. It was a gorgeous place in a very lovely part of the city. There were all kinds of vendors, from food to artists. I wish I could remember what I ate but I’m sure it was delicious.
The highlight of the day was dressing like a rubber ducky and riding a jet boat in the Reversing Falls. Because of the massive tides, the incoming water conflicts with the flow of the river, and at parts this reverses the direction. At our location this created large waves. From what I understand the company I patronized is no longer in business but my experience was fun, wet, and cold. Eight people were put into a jet boat and the driver would spin us around, take the boat under the waves, and do everything he could to soak us. This being Canada, they didn’t have the strict rules that the U.S. would enforce. At no time was I strapped into the boat and during one submerged turn I was thrown out of my seat and had to grab on to a bar to keep from going overboard. It was awesome!
The greatest part of the experience was the driver (pilot?) of the boat. He cracked jokes the entire time and did so in two languages! Most of the other passengers were French speakers so he would tell a joke to me then as I sat laughing would translate perfectly to the others. Maybe French Canadians have a different sense of humor because they never seemed to find him as funny as I did. As he would charge into the waves he would put his fingers up to his forehead like horns and pretend to be a charging bull. Of course in doing this he had to relinquish control of the wheel adding to the sense of danger. He claims, and I have no reason to doubt him, that he is the only man in Canada that can make 12 women wet all at once. Brilliant! That fantastic Canuck is in the red jacket in the picture below.
After my adventure at the Reversing Falls I headed over to the smaller and much more quaint St. Andrews. While cute they have an unusual idea of what makes good souvenirs (see image on the right). My time there was much more relaxing and slow paced than my time in St. John’s. In St. Andrews I took a nice pirate themed sailboat voyage through the bay. Included with admission was a cup of soup, a neat drink, and all the pirate swag I could put on. They had a sort of petting zoo on board also with starfish and other critters that the kids (and me) could hold.
It was an interesting excursion. At one point in the bay we could see New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine stretched all around us. At least that’s what the captain told us, the land all kind of looked alike to me (does that make me racist?). All the ships in the bay, all from different tour companies, keep in constant radio contact with each other for signs of whales. Once one was spotted all the tourist ships in the bay converged on it. I felt terrible! Can you imagine being chased by half a dozen sailboats while you’re trying to grab a snack? The end result was terribly underwhelming and I was the only one on my ship to actually get a picture, weak as it is, of the whale. No big tails or blowhole sprays.
I would be remiss if I left out my trip getting to St. John’s. I bought my GPS TomTom for that trip and I still use it constantly. Now I’m more knowledgeable and comfortable with it, but when I first got it there were many features I didn’t know about…like the fact that it has an option to allow the use of unpaved roads in your trip…an option that was turned on out of the box. I took the first right down the street from the inn and headed north. No problem. Eventually I came to construction, waived at the sole human in his paving truck, and continued onto what had become a gravel road. And that gravel road narrowed to one lane. And that one lane became a bed of river rocks. Soon I was two hours from the inn on what appeared to be a dry river bed in the Canadian mountains with just under a quarter tank of gas. I knew if I ran out of gas I would be sleeping in the woods and using the entire next day to hike back to the inn in bear country. I was pretty sure I didn’t have enough gas to turn back at that point. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.
Eventually I crested a hill and there in front of me was a terrifying, rusted tow truck idling. I couldn’t turn around or go past him because the road was too narrow and the forest too thick. I stopped the HHR, puffed out my chest, and walked up to his truck shaking in my boots. Rather than killing and skinning me, he was super understanding and amused. I’m still not sure what he was doing so far in the woods, alone, and truck idling, but who am I to judge? I let a computer guide me there. So I traded TomTom for DonDon for half an hour. He lead me to a gas station and wouldn’t take any money as a reward. Class act! Thanks Don!
The next day promised more structured adventure! I headed north to Riverside-Albert to stay at the Broadleaf Ranch. My package deal was a stay overnight, 4.5 hours of horseback riding, and a steak dinner at their lodge. The place was enormous and beautiful. When we got there however, we were told that a camp came in and all the cabins and rooms were taken. At first I was disappointed until they told me they had reserved a room at a B&B just minutes down the road. Why was the B&B cooler than staying on the ranch? Because my nights lodging would now look over a small farm with llamas, ponies, chickens, and goats! I got to wake up to the sound of weird critters just outside my window. I even had a balcony directly above the animals.
I’ve done a fair share of horseback riding in my life but this was the most exciting. I had this fun, Australian lady as my guide. She was in Canada for a gap year from school. During the winter she was a snowboard instructor and during the summer she gave riding lessons. Once she saw how comfortable I was on the horse, she let loose. As I mentioned above, Canada does not have all the rules we do in the U.S. I was allowed to ride without a helmet.
As we started down the trail we were met by an oncoming fox. It trotted up towards us with a small rodent in it’s mouth, completely unfazed by the 3 large horses ahead of it. At the last minute it turned and slipped into high grass. From there we walked, then trotted, along a small stretch of beach. Trotting is not my favorite, it can get painful for a guy. After the shore it was up into the mountains! There were large, cleared trails made by loggers working in the area. Once on a trail my guide looked back with a big smile and asked “Want to run?” Of course I did! As soon as I said yes she nudged her horse into light speed and mine quickly followed.
Four and a half hours was a long time to ride but I enjoyed every minute of it. Two members from my group dropped out after 2 hours because it was too much for them. That worked to my advantage since they weren’t up for loping. That night with a giant bruise on each of my inner thighs, I feasted on a large steak before moving on to my next stop.
The following morning found me kayaking the mega tides of the Bay of Fundy with Fresh Air Adventure tour guides. We set out at high tide to a small stretch of beach where we were given a snack next to a small waterfall. On the way out we saw a few small porpoises and possibly a seal. By the time we made it back the tide had gone out. As mentioned when the tide goes out, it goes way the Hell out. We couldn’t land where we launched from and it was a quarter mile walk across wet sand and rocks back to the shop. Lucky the company is use to this problem and they sent a van to pick us all up.
This may have changed or may have been hyperbole but the guide said the city of Alma, where we were, had a population of 200 with 5 churches and no grocery store. Indeed at the small mom-and-pop owned convenience store I was told the nearest ATM was 20 minutes away. They let me buy something small with my card and gave me cash back. Nice, small town folk!
The last outdoor activity for my trip was a walk at the Hopewell Rocks. This is the area where the tides are most evident. Below is a photo that demonstrates how the area looks at high and low tide. You can take both walking tours and kayaking tours if you schedule them properly.
I don’t remember where my last night was. I remember it was a spa right on the bay and my package included a taxi to a local restaurant. I had a private entrance to a garden and winding trail down to the shore. I got my first massage there. I don’t like being touched by strangers and left a bit more tense than when I entered. Fortunately this room also had a hot tub in it. I lounged in the tub looking over a foggy bay with a lighthouse shining in the background. It was pretty awesome.
It will be hard to ever top this trip but I’m certainly going to try. The bar has been set high for my Summer of 2017 trip but with the planning and time I’ve put into it, it stands a great chance of being the best trip ever.