Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saint John, New Brunswick

Crossed the International Border from Calais, Maine, on Monday. We were a little concerned, mainly due to our fairly well stocked bar coming up against a 1 liter per person quota. The booth attendant asked many questions:

Have you been to Canada before?...........When?..........
.......................... When before that?....................
How long are you staying?..........How do you have that much time off of work?
................How much alcohol do you have?....................
Do you have any firewood?..........Do you have any plants?....

Ooh, it was this last one that had me pulling over and trotting inside for my full body cavity exam. NO, just kidding, ladies and gentlemen. I'm here all week. Tip your waiter. But, seriously, I did have to promise never to let any of the soil from my evil, contaminated American house plants touch Canadian soil, and I did have to hand over the few sticks of firewood that I had with me. That done, we were through and into the province of New Brunswick, and drove from there to the city of Saint John.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: camping in a city, spending our 14th anniversary downtown, dining at our choice of fine restaurants. In retrospect, screw the city - give me the peace and quiet of the country, and I'll cook my own damn food! But, we went into Saint John, and quickly found their city roads to be labyrinthian and poorly marked, but at least they were narrow and potholed!

We got off track, not realizing that we were supposed to on the lookout for postage stamp sized signs showing a little tent and trailer, and we ended up driving the rig downtown, along the cruise ship docks, and through the shopping district. Not good, but we didn't hit much. Then, when we found our way through a series of loops and pretzel shaped overpasses that should earn the city planner a trip to the electric chair, we finally arrived at the park, within sight the whole time, and found a barricade and detour sign awaiting us. We followed the detour, and went round and round through the city neighborhoods trying to make sense of it. Finally, a nice gentleman approached us as I sat stewing over my map, and offered to guide us in. "I saw you go arooond abooot three times already. Follow me, eh?" Relieved and grateful, we followed him, amazed as he led us right past the detour sign and through the construction site, amongst excavators, steam-rollers, saw-horses and cones. We hadn't notices the little sign saying that park traffic need not detour. We were so stressed out that we happily parked in the open lot that was the city park's campground!

Rockwood Park is actually a nice city park, over 2000 acres, riddled with roads, trails and ponds. But the campground is old, unkempt, and crowded. And, there's those harsh noises from this city of heavy industry! An enourmous rail depot sprawled at the bottom of the hill, issuing forth a cacophony of clanging, banging, and impossibly loud horn blasts at 3:00 in the morning. A gargantuan oil refinery belched smoke and flame into the atmosphere across town. And a herculaean and sorely overdue road improvments project was fully underway throughout. Sound lovely?
Just look at the natural beauty!:

The next day we did make the best of it. I found a decent network of mountain biking trails to rip on, and we took a drive up the coast to the Fundy Trail, a serpentine road and parallel multi-use trail along a gorgeous piece of coastline cascading into the Bay of Fundy. In these parts when the tide goes out, it goes WAY out, and boats are tied so that they don't tip over when they sit on the ocean floor at low tide:

Here is Nancy at one of the many overlooks:

The bay was mirror smooth:

In the evening we went back downtown, this time on purpose, and had a nice dinner at Billy's Seafood restaurant in what is actually a fine downtown district.

The waterfront has dockage, a Coast Guard station, and lots of shops, restaurants and bars:

And a bunch of cartoonesque statues of regular people doing regular things in the city:

So, that was our Saint John experience. It was good for a few stories, but I could do without the inner-city RV driving, and am once again grateful that we did not get in anywhere that we couldn't get out of. We've moved on now, back to the less populous countryside, and relieved that when we turn off the diesel, all we hear is the wind, waves and the songs of the birds.

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