Canada: New Brunswick

Canada: New Brunswick
Our crossing from Maine into New Brunswick was quick and easy. We only had to stop long enough to answer one question: "Do you have any alcohol with you?" We had some wine and beer on board, but since the tight spaces on motorcycles are seldom thought to yield huge quantities of that sort of contraband we were waved through in the blink of an eye. Welcome to Canada!

The crossing rolls us from one town directly into the other, from Calais, Maine to St. Stephen, New Brunswick. Only the bridge over the St. Croix River and the border post separate them, but the difference between the two is pretty wide. Life takes on a much slower pace on the northern side, and the change in traffic is significant. It's nearly nonexistent in fact.

The coastline of New Brunswick, much of it accessible yet unspoiled, has an overall length of more then twelve hundred miles, making it a great maritime destination. South of the border, we had based this upcoming tour on one simple principle: We would head east along the main route of Highway 1 and turn off toward the coast whenever possible. Green-and-blue signs with a lighthouse in the middle make it easy to navigate, leading travelers over the scenic Bay of Fundy Tour. By following these indicators of beautiful roads all the way, we wouldn't miss a single highlight. Only ten miles out of St. Stephen the first sign points right toward St. Andrews, on the deep-blue waters of Passamaquoddy Bay. Founded in 1783, the town still retains much of its turn-of-the-century charm with restored houses from the 1800s and a very picturesque waterfront.

Picnicking on a relatively calm day beside the West Quaco Lighthouse.

Our next detour off Highway 1 takes us to the fishing village of Blacks Harbour (home to the world's largest sardine company) on a demanding roller-coaster ride of blind curves and steep little hills that provide quite a few exciting moments of airborne fun as we top the crests. Back on the main route and too exhausted from our side trip to ride much farther, we turn into the New River Beach Provincial Park to set up camp on a hilltop spot with a great view of the ocean and a wide sandy beach. Upon our arrival at low tide, the beach extends over 200 yards to the water and, as the high tide comes in, it's a fascinating sight watching the water flowing so quickly toward us, like a film running at twice its normal speed, covering up all of the sand. No wonder though. The Bay of Fundy features the highest tides in the world, and water levels rise and fall 54 feet within six hours with each tidal change. According to the folklore of the Mi'kmaq First Nation, the splashing tail of a giant whale creates these extremes. Scientists have a different take on the matter. Owing to the proportions of the bay, the interval between the time it takes a large wave to go from one end of the bay to the opposite end is the same as the interval between high tides (about 12 hours), which accounts for the extraordinary differences in water levels.

This phenomenon is also responsible for the popularity of the main tourist attraction in Saint John, Reversing Falls. In this case, however, the word 'falls' is an exaggeration  -  it's actually a rapid that flows in opposite directions. At low tide, the St. John River empties into the sea through a narrow rocky gorge. Near the overlook at Fallsview Park, an underwater ledge, 36 feet below, causes a boiling series of rapids and whirlpools. The rising tide slows the river current to a stop and for 20 minutes a rest period called low slack tide allows boats to navigate the falls. And once the tide is higher than the river, the reversal of the current occurs and continues until high tide, causing the river to flow "upstream." The water rises over 14 feet above sea level in the gorge.

Shediac takeout: How's this for good fast food?

The countryside east of Saint John reminds us very much of Scotland. There's even a village named Loch Lomond there. Routinely lashed by furious ocean storms, it's a barren landscape with blueberry fields that seem to stretch forever. As we come down from the hills toward the coast, the area offers thrilling views over the water, and it almost feels like we're driving into the sea before the roadway turns. Although it's a beautiful sunny day, the wind blows fiercely over the cliffs near West Quaco. A lighthouse, not high and slender as they often are, sits asquat the rocks like a compact fortress. The wild surroundings radiate a beauty that compels us to stay and have our lunch in the lee of the lighthouse. Amid the noise of crashing waves, we fling the last of our scraps to the circling gulls.