Pretty full day today. We tried to leave de bonne heure, as they'd say in Quebec (I think!), but it was still getting on for 9am when we left our lovely campsite. Our plan was to whistle down the freeway to make up some time, so that we could stop in to Grand Falls to, funnily enough, see The Falls. They're a bit low at this time of the year though because, while they rage with Spring run-off, by now the water has been dammed for the whole summer. However, the rocks were very interesting to see - very striated, dramatic dark slate.
The town is interesting: it's a major centre for McCains (as are several others in this area), but it's curious how strong the odour of FRIES is all over the town. Actually, I'm a fan of McCain's - not the fries, but the Company - but because many years ago (long before other companies were jumping on the bandwagon) their advertising recognized women in non-traditional jobs, so I appreciated that.
After Grand Falls we detoured off on to a minor route at Florenceville to follow a river for about half an hour - just to catch more of the beauty of the area. The colours here are amongst the best we have seen so far – almost iridescent in their brilliance.
Then we got back up on to the main highway to make time so as to be at Fredericton between the designated times to meet Bob. We were parking on King Street when we met him walking towards us and nipped into a bakery to have a bite of lunch. It was great to catch up with him - what a long shot that was to actually park behind his van in Quebec City! - then he walked with us to City Hall to question our parking ticket that we had picked up. Bruce was joking about having his lawyer along with him, and Bob was busy charming the heck out of everyone, but the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful. As Tourists we are entitled to ask for three days free parking so that we can enjoy their City – what a great idea (hint to other cities!). We were given a pass, and they took care of dismissing our parking ticket very quickly.
We then left Bob who went off to do some touristing in Fredericton and got on the road again. This time, not being under time constraints, I set Maggie (the GPS) to find our way to Hampton, New Brunswick with “least use of highways”. Well, she’s a pretty literal sort of gal that Maggie, I can now tell you. Not only was our course “least use” of highways – it was actually “no use of actual roads”! First we crossed on a little cable-pull ferry to Jemsec, then we went up hill, down dale and around corners towards Sussex along tiny country roads, then we came to a ‘Y’ in the road, both of which possibilities looked like farm dirt tracks. However, Maggie was still insisting that the muddy, rocky, pond-filled trench to our left would actually take us by the shortest distance to Hampton. We thought we’d turn around and try to find a real road but, as we were backing out of our branch of the ‘Y’ a huge dumptruck came to the intersection so I flagged him down.
I asked him if we could get through to Hampton on the road we were pointing down. He looked very amused, but said “Sure, it’s a straight shot into Hampton down there.” “Well", sez I (not liking his apparent humour), "Is the road like this all the way along?” More amusement on his part: “Oh, this is the good part - but it gets better at the end.” “So you think we can do it?” “Oh yes, you can do it" he replied, eyeing our camper with the kayaks perched on top. “Thanks” sez I and turned away. Suddenly, however, I realized he’d been just too amused, so I turned back and said “Okay, but SHOULD we do it?” This time he laughed outright, then said “You’ll be alright – it’s a bit tight and it gets a bit tricky, but you’ll be fine.”
So, off we go, rockin’ ‘n rollin’ down the muddy track at about 6 Kms per hour. Every now and then, huge ponds filled the “road” from one side to the other and the great unknown was “How deep is it?” We crawled along this THING for almost 16 kilometres and I was just starting to fantasize about Ku Klux Klanners who send innocent tourists down impossible dead-end lanes where they will eventually become stuck and, later that night, the “gang” descends upon their unsuspecting victims and pick them clean when, suddenly, the lumpy, muddy, rocky road became a “smoother” dirt track and, after another a few kilometres, we found ourselves coming in the back door of the town of Hampton.
Our Hampton friends (and their friends, too) were more than a little amused at the route we had taken. It actually has a name: Ravine Road. (Note to readers: AVOID IT!)
We had a lovely reunion and evening with our friends, Bill and Dianne, with whom we did a very successful house exchange five or six years ago, and Bill's sister Sonya (who had been very helpful and friendly to us when we were here before). We sank way more wine than was good for any of us judging by our conditions in the morning, but it was a tremendous evening and we are grateful for their hospitality. Tonight we are staying in their house and tomorrow is a 'maintenance day' for us.