Friday, 26 August 2011

August 21: Plaster Rock to Miramichi

   I'm guessing you are in front of your computer right now. If you are, go to google maps and find Plaster rock, now find Miramichi. You'll probably notice there is a highway that runs between the two. The highway is the 108. Take a second and make a mental note here. Never ever travel that highway. Let this story be enough to show you why.

    We were up early enough.  It was a rainy morning, but at least the night was over. It had poured during the night. So much so that water had soaked up from the ground and had gotten my bivy, sleeping bag and the contents of my sleeping bag, i.e. me, wet. Luckily, Downey and our new companion Kate found enough dry wood to start a fire and dry out our kit and warm our cold miserable bones. We made a big pot of porridge in the morning to eat. Everyone ate as much as they could because we would be travelling a barren stretch that apparently did not offer any rest stops along the way.
   When everyone was ready to leave we made sure to pack extra water and food for the journey. On a road sign leaving Plaster Rock it was written  "Miramichi 148" and a few kilometers after that was another sign displaying the picture of a gas pump with 139 written under it. This display was meant to show people that there would be no gas station for at least 139 kilometers.
   It was a sunday when we left. Therefore the highway was completly quiet. The logging trucks that usually dominate these roads and give this highway a purpose were few and far between on a Sunday. The ride was the quietest journey I have taken to date. The odd car would pass us, but it was such a rare occurence that we could take up all lanes of highway with little worry of being in danger.
   We did 70 km without seeing a house, a car, a soul. Nobody was around. This is one of the reasons we were so happy when we found a place called the Halfway Inn, halfway to our destination. It was just a small little shack and looked very unassuming. One man sat outside the Inn with a few empty beers before him.
   Downey, Kate and I figured this was as good of a place as any to take a break. We got off our bikes in front of the Inn, and that's when things got bizzare.
   Its funny, sometimes you get this feeling in the pit of your stomach that something isn't quite right. Something in your subcounscious says "Keep pedalling, don't stop here". Its a feeling you should listen to, but after riding for so long without chance for a rest you tend to ignore your gut feeling. That feeling was ringing the sirens withing me at full tilt when I approached the Halfway Inn, but I did not heed its call.
   All three of us were thirsty, we wanted water, maybe a place to sit. We had asumed that the man out the front was just a bar patron who had had too much to drink. Unfortunatly, he was the man who ran the establishment.
   Downey was the first one off his bike. He made the mistake of walking past the inebriated man and into the inn looking for service. That's when the man finally spoke to us. His speech was slurred at best, he smelled a combination of alcohol, marijuana, cigarette smoke and body odor.

    "What are you looking for? I'm the only one here if you want something, talk to me." said the scary man.

    "O... Ummm... Well we just cycled here and we were wondering if there is anything to eat or drink or something" Downey

   "You want beer? I got beer, you want a beer? You guys want a beer!"

   "O no its ok, I was wondering if you have iced tea or something else maybe.... Its ok tho don't worry about it."

   "Your going to turn down beer? A man offers you a beer you take it. You want a beer?"


   The creepy man hands Downey and I a beer. Than he looks at Kate and she firmly says no to the beer.

   "I can't drink beer, I have a ciliac alergy. I can't eat wheat" said Kate.

   Than, the creepy drunk guy looked at Kate up and down and said the most uncreepiest thing in the most possible creepy way. I don't know if he was trying to scare her, or if it was a feeble attempt at a pick up line, but picture the scariest person you know repeat this in a drunken attempt at fratenization.

    "O..... I bet you eat wheat.... I bet you eat wheat alot...." Said Creepy man

    We all just stood there silently. We had made our way in the inn before it had become obvious how precarious a situation we had gotten ourselves into. I kept on wondering when he would put on the Jason mask and bring out the chainsaw. This would have been the perfect spot for a horror flick-style group murder. 70 km from the nearest person, it the middle of nowhere, nobody would here us scream. By the speed in which Downey finished his beer I could tell he was thinking the same thing as me: "Lets get the hell out of here". I was attempting to finish my warm beer so we could get out and it was no easy task. First of all, warm beer was the last thing I wanted to drink in the middle of a hot day, and it was a budweiser. If it waren't for the fear of setting off our terrible host I would have simply left it on the counter untouched.
   So there we all were, looking for an out. Then, the worst Inn keeper in the world took out his marijuana pipe, lit up and expelled copious amounts of foul smelling smoke. That was only to be followed by a nonsensical ramble about how since the age of sixteen he had been fired from every job he has ever had. My counsciousness tuned him out when he started talking about a calf he had neglected in a ranch hand job in alberta and how his mistake led to the calf's ears freezing off during the winter.

    "Well we have to hit the old dusty trail. Thanks you for your hospitality" Said I.

    "You guys just got here, and your already leaving!"

   "We have a long way to cover, we never take long breaks"

   I said the most non-combatant thing I thought I could say. The last thing I wanted to do was tell this man about how every second I spent in his pressence made me feel uneasy and about how I was pretty sure he was wondering what the best way to dissembowel me would be. Lastly, even tho I was hungry, the idea of eating a plate of food prepared by him would only make me sick.
   "Anyways, you take care"

   With the last line I threw my beer can in the garbage and headed out the door.

   "What the hell are you doing?!" Said the crazy man "Do you even know that you can get a nickel for that can? I don't know what its like in Quebec where you're from, but you can get a nickel for that can out here. You put that can on the counter..."

    I was blown away by his freakout, I was also blown away from the fact he assumed that I was from Quebec. I placed his precious can on the counter and headed outside with the guys. Everyone got on their bikes and I could tell Downey and Kate were still making an attempt to politely nod their heads to the random things the man was saying. For me, I was far beyond that. In this mans inebriated state he had about as much common sense as a road kill skunk. Midway through his rant about the government and how golf is the worst sport in the world I started biking away, only to be slowly joined by Downey and Kate. His rant continued, if not a little louder so we could still here. As we biked off I could still hear him yelling off in the distance:

   "Sixteen Dollars! So I told him... Not worth it man. I could build a shed that holds all of it! Makes me sick!", he rambled.

    "Ok guys, that guy is insane lets get out of here"

   We all agreed the only thing of importance at the time would be creating distance between Mr. Crazy and ourselves. As we started re-hashing the last events and laughing, we heard a sound very similar to a chainsaw in the distance, only it was getting closer.

   "What the hell is that... Is that a chainsaw?" Said Downey

   "O god no... Its that guy! He is coming over here." Said Kate.

   It was no chainsaw that we heard, rather it was a small racing quad which crazy man had mounted to continue his rant. After all, what is a rant without an audience.
   For the next two hours our small band of travellers were in constant fear because Mr. Crazy would zoom by us in his racing quad within feet of our bikes, and on occasion he would stop and ramble about something new:

    "So they wanted me to be part owner and I said: No Man, I don't need this!"

    Finally, either the crazy man passed out or crashed because he did not return. Everyone in our group was relieved not to hear the chainsaw-like sound of his quad and we could finally laugh about this peculiar situation.

   As the day wound to an end we found a small campsite near Miramichi. There was a little bar or Saloon where a live band was playing. My friends and I set up our gear, made friends with some other campers from P.E.I who happened to be in the same campsite and then as a group we headed towards the live music.
   I loved the music. The bar was chaotic but I just danced by myself to the beat of the drum and was happy another day, and another 140 km was behind me. I knew the story about the crazy guy would be great to repeat, but I wondered how many more stories like this awaited us on our trek.

   A relaxing fire blazed by my sleeping bag that night. Seeing as the night was beautiful, I just slept under the stars. Even though some of the days are more bizzare than anything I might have ever imagined, I wouldn't take one day back. There is no freedom like the kind I experience on the road.

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