Cumberland, Canada - Polarsteps
New Brunswick! So much more hill-climbing than we anticipated, but our legs have been doing this so long that it didn't matter much. We stayed on country back-roads as much as we could (this was a cyclist-recommended route, as opposed to the more direct option of cutting straight across the province through Fredericton, which sounded highway-heavy and maybe a little too much like the road through northern Ontario, an experience we weren't ready to have again). We got to enjoy the fall colours, low-traffic roads, and coastal inlets leading out the sea.
We had business in Dieppe; getting to the east coast meant we weren't far from hopping off the edge of the continent and out of the country. We have plans in the next year to be in some places where it's highly advisable to get some travel vaccines, and generally travelling through the world the way we are, spending a lot of time in rural areas and at risk of getting chased and bitten by dogs, we'd decided to get our rabies shots, which is a time-sensitive three-part series-- not the easiest thing to coordinate far enough in advance to get an appointment but close enough to the dates to reliably get there on bicycles, in a part of the country where the only travel clinics are in Moncton and Halifax.
Enter Isabelle; she booked us into her travel clinic in Dieppe with flexibility around the date (which we didn't end up needing to call on; we paced ourselves and made it to our appointment). She was amazing, kind, hilarious, completely transparent and ethical in running her business in an industry that sees a lot of price-gouging, and supportive of our travel plans. She gave us our first round of shots, and then at the end when we were talking through how we might go about getting the second ones that needed to happen a week later, she put forward, "My husband and I love spending a weekend in Halifax; we'll book a hotel room there, and why don't you come and get your shots and then we'll all go out for drinks after."
...And that's the story of how we ended up getting a bunch of vaccines in a hotel room (which, when we did meet up in Halifax, came with a lot of jokes right out of the gate about how the whole arrangement definitely sounded like either a sex thing or a murder thing). Sort of similarly to getting a bike frame welded at a car garage in rural Quebec, the most amazing help has come when someone gets on board with the weird nature of our trip and offers a janky solution to our janky problem. We got through our second round of shots, and then had a really lovely evening out with Isabelle and her husband Pierre.
Back in New Brunswick, though, after getting our first shots in Dieppe, we headed to Sackville, my old university town, for a night; we made sure we arrived early enough to spend an afternoon walking around (our first stop was going to be a milkshake at Mel's Tearoom, which is how we learned that it just shut down after being a local staple for the better part of a century). We were hosted by Bill and Marilyn, the only Warmshowers hosts in town (who, by small-town coincidence, ended up being the parents of the person whose couch I'd slept on the last time I came to town nine years ago); they were wonderful and fed us dinner, put us up in their comfy guest room, and saw us off in the rain with a bag of homemade muffins and good route advice the next day.
That route advice was to head straight down to Parrsboro NS, which kept us on a road so quiet that whenever we stopped there was complete silence, and also sent us along part of the Bay of Fundy, which we'd missed by taking the northern route through New Brunswick. Arriving in Parrsboro at the end of the day, we'd planned to push farther and try camping either off the road or at a closed-for-the-season campground, but when we stopped to check the map we saw a place called the Mad Hatter Hostel in town, offering cheap dorm beds. We called and Kathy was happy to take us, her only guests at the time, for the night, so we rolled up to her old family home, parked our bikes and piles of stuff in the entranceway, and had such a comfortable evening cooking our dinner in a maritime kitchen with lots of chatter, and folks coming through to see Kathy and offering us homemade fudge and pumpkin loaf on the way. We stayed late talking the next morning; Kathy's a gem, and so is her small-town Nova Scotia hostel-- we were so glad we ended up here.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲