Geoff's Tour
A Journal of My Bicycle Touring

Journey Notes

Today, I rode across New Brunswick. Not the widest part but I rode from just about the US border with New Brunswick at St-Léonard to Campbellton where I can at least see the Atlantic Ocean. Actually, it's really the Restigouche River but it is affected by the tides so I'll call it the Atlantic. This is the first time on this ride that I've seen the Atlantic so it was quite an emotional feeling as I crested a pass just above Campbellton and could see the bay in the distance.

I woke up this morning to rain and thunder. It was still dark but I had it in my mind that I had to get up early to be able to cover the 144 km in daylight. I kept listening to the rain and thinking, "if it's raining, I might as well sleep in a bit". That was until I checked the clock and saw that it was 3:30 am.

I ended up sleeping in until 8 am. The rain had stopped and by the sounds of the trucks on the highway, it was dry. The start of the ride at 9:30 am was dry and stayed that way for a while. I did have two rain showers that totalled about 15 minutes of wet so it wasn't too bad. It was quite cloudy and cool for most of the day so I rode in my rain jacket and leg warmers until late afternoon.

Because the route was almost completely without cell phone coverage, we made plans to meet at several places to make sure my bike and VanGo made it that far. The first was at St-Quentin, where I got this picture of a big maple leaf.

The second stop was in Kedgwick where there was a nice park with covered benches and a washroom. If it had been sunny and warm, it would have been much nicer. We ate lunch at Kedgwick.

The maps showed almost nothing from Kedgwick to Campbellton so we picked a spot about half way and decided to meet along the road. That worked well. Rochelle ended up waiting for as much as an hour at each of these places but at least she had the Bell MiFi to get on the internet. Too bad Fido/Rogers cell coverage is so poor in the Atlantic provinces.

The day was very hilly but I did have a tail wind for most of the way with a few sections with very strong head winds. In fact, I had one of the steepest long downhill stretches that I've had across the whole trip. There was a 5 km section with grades up to 11%. I'm glad there wasn't a complementary uphill across a valley. The last 40 km or so seemed to be much more downhill than up. That was nice to have at the end of a long day.

Tomorrow, we move into Quebec again and follow the south shore of the Gaspé Peninsula to visit some of my family tomorrow night.

It was a pleasant day riding the back roads heading up the St. John River. It was quite warm and sunny. Highway 105 was a relatively rough paved road. I couldn't ride too fast due to the roughness but it was still nice as there was little traffic.

We met up in Grand Falls, NB and had lunch there. That was about 70 km into the ride.

The last 20 km was on highway 255 and was about the same quality as highway 105. It had some really deep river valleys and with long hills getting out of them. In this last section, I started to see rain clouds in the distance. They quickly caught me but I didn't get very wet.

We are staying at a Motel/Campground that had a pool. We got in a quick swim before dinner. Heavier rain started in the middle of dinner and is expected on and off all night. Tomorrow is looking rainy too.

Tomorrow will be along highway 17 to Campbellton, 144 km away. There are very little services between here and there so I'll have to cover that distance on a rainy day. Should be fun!

I was back on the bicycle today. It was a short 60 km ride from Woodstock, NB to Clearview, NB. We drove into the area from Nova Scotia this morning and I didn't get on the bicycle until about 2:30pm.

Both my speedometer and my GPS on my phone failed so the distance is an approximate that comes from Google Maps. In the first 500 meters, going down a steep and bumpy hill one of my two remaining rear flashing red lights broke and skipped and bounced down the road. I had three at one time and now I'm down to one.

It was about 28C when I got started. It always seems harder to start in hot weather than to ease into it from a relatively cool morning. The ride followed the very nice St. John river along the western edge of New Brunswick. There was one really spectacular and very long covered bridge that crosses it. I missed that and only had a glimpse of it from a distance. I did cross the river at another point where the bridge was partially a covered bridge.

That bridge was in Florenceville, "The French Fry Capitol of the World". I didn't see any evidence of this claim.

We have come to a nice little campground on the St. John River. It was supposed to be an early day but as usual, I am writing this post after 10pm and all of my other tasks have been mostly completed. I still need to figure out where I am going tomorrow. In general we are heading to New Richmond, Quebec in about 3 days to visit with my many relatives that live in that area.

VanGo got fixed last week and we picked him up on Wednesday. He still is not quite up to what he was before the last problem. Power is not as good (it was already really bad) and the gas mileage has gotten a lot worse. It would be nice to take him in again but we would likely be forced to make another week long break and that's only if we could find a mechanic willing to work on him. I think that we will just have to limp along as best as we can.

(posted on 18 Aug 2012)

We are getting ready to head to the Halifax airport to pick up our goddaughter. We will be showing her (and ourselves) around Atlantic Canada until she heads home on August 25. There won't be any more blog posts until then.

Yesterday morning we managed to get VanGo to Gunther's Auto Repair in Fredricton, MB. He was running better than yesterday evening but not much better. While the shop looks pretty rough, Gunther is the goto guy for old VWs in the area. He listened to the engine for a bit, fiddled some and said that he thought the issue was one of two sensors. So the sensors were ordered and will be in on Monday.

We absolutely had to be at the Halifax airport this morning so instead of hanging out in Fredricton until VanGo was fixed, we rented a car yesterday, packed a bunch of stuff into it from VanGo and headed for Halifax.

A very helpful person in the Amherst, NS "Welcome to Nova Scotia" center gave us some really good tips for the week and got us a good room near the waterfront in Dartmouth (across the harbour from Halifax) at a reasonable price.

We still have to figure out our schedule for the week of touring as well as fit in a return trip to Fredricton to pick up VanGo when he's ready.

Assuming al works out, I will be back on the bike again on Sunday August 26. Expect more blog posts at that time.

Today was filled with ups and downs but few were related to cycling.

Our first task of the day was to find someone to see if they could figure out what our fuel system problem is. We tracked down a shop that was very close to our campground late last night. This morning, we went there but they said that they were too busy to help us. Instead, they sent us down the road to Al's Auto only a few blocks further.

It turns out that Al loves VW Westfalias and had one when he was younger. He even had a picture of it on his wall. He was eager to help us and did a bunch of research on our problem before diving into it. They immediately found that there was a broken vacuum hose to the fuel pressure regulator and felt pretty confident that this was our problem. It was fixed inexpensively and we were on the road by about 10:30 am. I left feeling unsure if our problems were really fixed because when we had arrived, everything was running fine anyway so this "fix" didn't really change anything.

We went back to where I stopped riding yesterday. It was raining heavily and had been all morning. I got dressed up in my heavy rain gear and started on my way. Because the area has no cell coverage and I was concerned about how well VanGo would go, we decided to have Rochelle drive ahead 15-20 km and wait for me. If I didn't show up in a reasonable time, she would double back and look for me and if she had any problems, I would reach her fairly quickly and we could deal with the issues together.

After the second such meeting she said that she was starting to experience the loss of power and hesitation that we had experienced the day before. It seemed prudent for us to move out of this area fairly quickly so I put my bike on the back and we drove the rest of the way to Houlton, ME.

VanGo ran pretty well over that distance. It had a few little hesitations going up hills but nothing more than a little annoyance. We decided to cross over into New Brunswick and head for Halifax although likely only go as far as Moncton.

After waiting at a very slow border crossing, we started to experience more serious hesitations and once on the Transcanada highway, we were slowing down to unacceptable levels so we decided to take some of the older, lower speed highways. These worked fairly well but we were noticing more and more hesitation and power loss on hills. By the time we reach Fredericton, we were having problems even on the flat and decided that we wouldn't even make it out of town again. So we ended up stopping at a Walmart for the night and we will start calling around in the morning to see about repairs.

It rained pretty hard all day. When we arrived in the Walmart we noticed what looked like some water spills on the rug in the back of VanGo. Upon further investigation, we found that the rug and the older original run underneath were soaked. I'm not sure where that water came from but we squeezed and incredible amount of water out of those two rugs.

It's been a long, tiring and frustrating day. Time to sleep.

Sorry, no photos today. I guess I was too busy trying to figure other things out.

This morning was a perfect bike ride. There was a little bit of a tail wind, the road was generally pretty good, interesting and had few hills. I felt like I had some really good power and got to our meeting point more than an hour sooner than I had expected. Good thing too as Rochelle was hit bit a thunderstorm as she came up to meet me. That thunderstorm passed over us as we were eating and was drying up by the time I was back on the road.

I noticed that in this area many people sell things on their front lawns. It is mostly cars but there are lots of other things. This was one of the more unusual things that I've seen for sale on a front lawn:

Our Mattawamkeag Wilderness County Park Campground sounded like an interesting campground about 12 km east of Mattawamkeag. When we looked at the road closely, we saw that it might be gravel and a lot of up hill. Given that it was not actually part of the bike route, we decided to meet at the turn off and drive together to the campground. The road turned out to be much rougher that we had expected. More of a 4X4 road.

We were almost at the campground when VanGo started to sputter and died on a hill. We got him started again but there was no power to get up the hill. There was no cell reception on any of our phones or data devices (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) so we had to try to get VanGo out under his own steam or ride our bikes out. There were a number of "kids" in the area and I felt that if we had to leave VanGo there for any time, there wouldn't be much left of him by the time we got back.

After much trial and error, we managed to find a technique that would allow us to climb very slowly and with much lurching up the hills that we needed to climb to get out of the area. We had to back down hills many times and take another run at them. My past experience with off-road driving with my Jeep came in pretty handy today.

We were both really happy to see pavement again! We have had some issues over the last couple of days with loosing power and we had originally thought that it was bad gas but I am now thinking that there is an issue with the fuel pickup in the fuel tank. It seems to work much better when the fuel level is above 3/4 full but when we hit 3/4, VanGo starts to loose power. I think that the rough access road just made the problem worse.

We will have to look into this more tomorrow. Tonight, we found another campground, a little further out of our way but is it very nice and had a great pool to help soothe our nerves.

Today was a very pleasant day on the road. It was almost all nicely paved roads with good shoulders and very little traffic. It was quite warm and humid but that's nothing new.

There were a lot of rolling hills. Many of the hills were just of the right size and spacing that I could get a good bit of speed built up doing down one hill and managed to carry enough of that speed plus a little of my own effort, to get to the top of the next hill, where it all starts again. I quite enjoy those kinds of hills.

We stopped in a nice little town call Unity for lunch and parked in the post office parking lot. We met George there and he told us a lot about the town and area and invited us to attend the Common Ground Country Fair in September.

As I was leaving town, I came across a pottery place that had this display on the lawn. Know any hobbits that need a new home?

When I reached Bangor, my energy was pretty drained. I've been slowly removing the few carbohydrates that I take in each day and I think that I may done that a little too fast today. The last little bit to our "campsite" (a Walmart) was pretty slow and I was extremely tired by the time I saw VanGo. It didn't help that Google Maps sent me to Lowes first.

In the parking lot tonight are 2 motorhomes, an extremely long trailer, a fifth-wheel trailer and a total of 3 Westies! That's the most operational Westies I've seen in one place all trip. We also met with Thomas, one of the motorhome owners, who told us some fascinating stores about his travels. Here is his website.

Tomorrow should be our last full day in the US as we head towards Mattawamkeag, ME. This is looking much more like wilderness country. It is also possible that telecommunications might be an issue so if there is no blog tomorrow night, you know why!

Today had a couple of milestones. Just 2 km into the ride, I crossed the 6,000 km (3,700 miles) point. Also, while we've not officially reached the Atlantic Ocean, we are only about 20 km from it and are paralleling it as we head northeast. So in effect, I've crossed the continent! Now it's just a matter of reaching the point on the continent that is furthest east!

We have chosen to stay away from the coast and its busy (and expensive) summer activity and to stay a little inland. It also seemed like a bit straighter path although with all the hills, it might be just as bad, just on the vertical axis. Oh well. It's good exercise! :)

It was pretty hot today. Temperature wise only 28C (83F) was expected but I saw signs that were closer to 90F. It felt very humid so that may have made it feel hotter. I had lots of ice water so the heat wasn't an issue. It did get very hilly on the last half of the day. I have a feeling that I will be seeing that for most of the rest of the trip.

VanGo started to act up again today. We've seen him have a hard time to stay running when first starting in a day but today he had no power and would barely stay running at all. Rochelle was feeling that she would not make it up some of the hills on the highway.

When we stopped for lunch, I had a look at things and decided it was a fuel flow or quality issue of some kind. I got some methanol (fuel line antifreeze) to soak up any water in the fuel and some WD40 to make sure that the issue wasn't wet plug wires (from all the rain that we've seen lately). That seemed to help but Rochelle ran into the same issues further down the road. On the phone, I suggested that she put more methanol into the tank and top it off the fuel, even though it was only at 1/2. VanGo was fine after that.

So the problem is likely in the fuel tank. I am thinking that excessive water over the years and the last few days of humid/wet days, might have put it over the top. I guess we will be putting methanol in with each tank of gas for a while.

Tomorrow, we should end up in the Bangor, ME area. We are still looking over places to stay but the distance looks about right. I am trying to keep above 100 km each day so that I can make up as much ground before our next break.

A beautiful sunset end to the day. Webber Pond (they sure have a lot of ponds around here!)

Another tough day. Today it was the first 45 km in rain. It started as just the lightest rain just as I was leaving. It gained in intensity and then lightning started. Luckily this time, I was in a relatively populated area so I ducked into a gas station to wait out the worst of the storm. I am amazed at how heavy the rain is here. Unlike Vancouver, the rain that I had today was quite warm so I put on a light rain jacket and shoe covers but left my legs bare. It wasn't all that uncomfortable in the rain although it is slower going due to higher road resistance and the effects of be battered by rain drops.

When we stopped for lunch, the rain had stopped so I changed into dry socks and shoes (my rain covers for my shoes were not match for this rain!) After another great lunch with Rochelle, I headed out to finish the last 75 km for the day. I shortly crossed into Maine. It wasn't long before I started seeing signs for Lobster Rolls. Some good seafood meals are ahead!

I saw a small snake today on the side of the road. I saw a similar one yesterday. They were both about a foot long and fairly bright green.

As I got closer to Standish (on Lake Sebago) I think that I was gaining in elevation but even more importantly there seemed to be a never ending series of long hills to climb.

When I arrived at the Family N Friends Campground, I was really beat. After a short break we enjoyed some time in the pool and hot tub, I had a little more energy. It's nice to have a hot tub at the end of a hard ride!

Tomorrow we should get to somewhere around Augusta, ME. I think that I will make this a bit shorter day. It would be nice to not be completely exhausted at the end of it.

There are no pictures today. I didn't take any and even if I had, neither the campground WiFi nor the Verizon MiFi are giving me much connectivity today.

After a nice visit yesterday, it was time to get back on the bike. I was still feeling the two hard days riding down from Montreal but we need to get going to make it to Halifax to meet Julia. Checking the cell phone coverage maps, T-Mobile and AT&T did not have much coverage over much of this route. I spent more time than usual looking over the route just so that I could understand where I was going if everything failed. That's important in this area as there seem to be no straight roads and few places that have direct roads between them.

I started at about 10am, with a full complement of rain gear on. Within 10 km, I had shed it all. I then started the first of two climbs. These are more than just rolling hills. These are mountains. I got about half way up the first one when I was met with a detour sign. There was a bridge out ahead. I had to go the long way around a mountain. I figured that added about 5km to my route.

While looking at the revised route, I noticed that there might be an opportunity to make up some of that extra distance by taking a different route around the next mountain. So I took a left, instead of a right, to take this alternative route. At about 10 km down the road, I was met with yet another "bridge out" sign. I had gambled on the wrong route and had to back track another 10 km.

A little while later, I started on the second climb of the day. I think that it was about 400 meters of gradual but constant climbing but I was rewarded with a similar descent down the other side.

I eventually reached highway 9, a much better highway that was engineered instead of just following old animal paths. That's when the rain started. It wasn't too heavy and was quite warm so I put on my rain jacket and kept going.

I was not too far away from Concord, NH (a pretty major city) when cell coverage finally came back up again. It was about 4:30 pm and I had over 110 km completed at that point. I immediately got a call from Rochelle. She was worried about me because I had not come back "online" until now. She had come back to check on me and came across me just as I was getting cell coverage. While I was still short of our campground, I had covered the distance that I had planned to cover so I got a ride to the campground.

The rain had stopped so we had a swim in the pool. It was great to soak my sore legs in the pool but it was kind of cool for an overcast day.

The storms have now returned and it is pouring down incredibly hard. But, VanGo seems to be staying dry.

We are still trying to figure out where we will stay tomorrow night but it should be somewhere near Portland, Maine.

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