Distance = 737 km Gas = $39.59 ($1.39/L in St-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, QB)
I’m exhausted. I woke up this morning with a sore throat and spent the day sucking on menthol lozenges as I drove through what must be the boring side of New Brunswick. It takes about seven hours, according to Google, to drive from Québec City to Saint John, but Google doesn’t account for pee breaks, naps, photo ops at the side of the highway, or food stops needed along the way. I left St-Gabriel de Valcartier at about 9:30 a.m. and didn’t get to Saint John till well after dark, around 9 p.m. local time (I lost an hour coming into New Brunswick), and now all I want to do is sleep till Friday.
Of course, the drive would have been shorter if the US wasn’t in the way, but I didn’t feel like crossing the border twice, so I went up and around, to get to Saint John. The drive through the rest of Québec was okay, though I had a hard time communicating with the woman at the rural gas station about the fact that I wanted to pay for my cold meds separate from my gas. It took a bit of gesturing because I didn’t know the French word for gasoline (“essence”), and I didn’t realize I didn’t have to pre-pay at the pump. Anyway, the rest of the drive through Québec was uneventful and I crossed unceremoniously into New Brunswick before I realized the dinky billboard I’d passed at the border was the official welcome sign, so I had to do a U-turn and go back for a photo.
I’m going to miss the way people in Québec pronounce my name – the way only native French speakers can – but I’m not going to miss the way people in Québec drive. Driving through New Brunswick is a lot easier. The highway running down the easternmost border is fairly straight, with few other cars, and those that are on the road are not driven by people who are irritated with you for various reasons. The only downside is there’s really nothing to see along the way. (Unless you count the little towns where you’ll find the world’s longest covered bridge or the world’s biggest axe.)
By the time I got to Fredericton it was already late afternoon because of the time change and I was hungry, tired and had to pee like a racehorse.
Travel tip: the best place to use a toilet in any town is the lobby of the fanciest hotel you can find. Just walk in like you’re a paying guest and head to the back. So far, I’ve found the only one that was inaccessible to the public was at the Château Frontenac, but otherwise no one questioned me as I made use of the sparkling clean, always empty, yet spacious washrooms in almost every city I’ve visited. (On the highway, of course, you’re stuck with gas station restrooms, but that’s to be expected on a road trip.)
After making use of the hotel amenities across from the parliament building, I found a Tim Hortons. I wasn’t planning on eating anything besides a leftover bagel today but I was starving by the time I reached the capital (maybe my stomach stretched while in Québec?) and the food, such as it was, definitely brightened my mood. Also, a Canadian road trip wouldn’t be complete without at least one stop at Timmy’s, would it? Knowing I was losing the light, I scarfed my food down while eavesdropping on a pair of old men talking as though from a script (“Oh, hi, George, how ya doing? Mind if I join you? Lovely day today wasn’t it?”) and then managed to get a few photos in – Fredericton is a gorgeous little town on the Saint John River filled with stunning old Colonial style houses – before the sun sank and the moon rose and I had to drive the last hour in the dark to Saint John. (By the way, I take back anything bad I’ve ever said about Siri. I couldn’t have made it here without her.)
I’m staying tonight with another Couchsurfing host, Debbie, who has very kindly given me her entire basement apartment as she’s going across the street to stay with her son and daughter-in-law. Tomorrow she’s going to show me around town and I guess I’ll get to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time (which I’m a little bit too excited about). But first, sleep. Lots of it.
NEXT POST: Saint John