part IV ..... THE SAINT JOHN RIVER TO EDMUNDSTON
You remember me saying just now that I was on the Route Des Frontieres and was wondering whether the frontier referred to was the USA? Well, I should have noticed that it was in the plural of course, because it also refers to the border with the Province of New Brunswick.
And so here we are, crossing into New Brunswick, and here's a nice pleasant photo to greet my arrival.
You'll notice that the sign is bilingual. That's because all of Canada (with the exception of the Province of Quebec of course) is officilly bilingual in English and French.
Not of course in any First Nation language though. The new Constitution has forgotten all about them even though in some places you are much more likely to encounter a First-Nation Canadian than you are a Francophone and their language is much more likely to disappear than is the French language.
New Brunswick is however the only Province in Canada where bilingualism is a formal requirement. And it's similar in a sense to Belgium in that there is a geographical language-division.
Along the border with Quebec, a few places down the coast and then round by Moncton is where you'll mainly encounter the French language, and I remember the derision with which the driver of a vehicle in which I was once travelling treated a Candian border guard who adressed him in French at the crossing between Houlton (USA) and Woostock, a very long way indeed from a French-speaking area.
But as an aside ... "you'll become accustomed to these" - ed ... now that French is being taught intensively in schools in New Brunswick, I asked a New Brunswick teacher whether it was Quebecois French that they were teaching.
"Not al all!" she snorted, most indignantly. "we teach the "Francais de Paris"!"
There was another sign here too but I didn't take a photo of that though, because it would only have depressed me before I even started. It would also have spoiled the impression of New Brunswick that I want to give you and that would never do.
But anyway, when you are in New Brunswick, you must remember ...
and probably a few more things besides.
This is all looking quite ominous, isn't it? Canada is starting to look more and more like the UK every day and you don't need me to tell you just how depressing that has become.
So here's my railway line again, and here's highway 215 if I want to take it. And if I hunt around for a minute to find a sign, I'll be able to tell you where it goes. Ahh yes, St Francis de Madawaska.
We aren't going that way though ... "we did in 2012" - ed. We're going straight on.
And the mystery of the confusion between Highway 289 and Highway 120 is resolved. Apparently Highways in Canada carry Provincial, not National numbers. Consequently this road might be Highway 289 in Quebec but as soon as it crosses the border into New Brunswick it becomes Highway 120.
Straight on down Highway 120 and I arrive at Lac Baker, which is to be my rather late lunch stop today.
And I don't know what has happened to the gorgeous summer that we have had for the last few days up on the north shore of the St Lawrence, because its perishing winter here right now and I am freezing to death. I certainly wasn't expecting this for early September.
There's a church over there, the Church of Saint-Thomas Aquinas, and so I went across for a butcher's at it.
It was built in 1904 but it's not the original church. That dated from 1875 and that tells you something about the date of settlement of this area.
When the USA gained its independence from Britain, this area had not even been fully mapped. No-one was living up here and so the frontier between Canada and the USA has no real significance or meaning.
It wasn't until 50-odd years later when the raw materials up here began to be exploited that the question of a definitive border became an issue. The settlers didn't arrive until round about the 1860s.
One thing that Lac Baker does have going for it is the fabulous beaches. Renowned for miles around, so they say.
There's a municipal beach just down the road and it is equipped with all facilities, and is ideal for all kinds of nautical sport activities. Unfortunately I seem to have forgotten my cozzy otherwise I would have been in there to tell you all about it.
Across the road is a wayside chapel and a calvaire - a wayside cross quite common in Catholic areas where travellers can pray to the Saints for safe deliverance from harm on their journey.
It's dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as you can tell by the Ave Maria, or "Hail Mary" written over the grotto, but I seem to have overlooked to make a note of whether there is anything noted about the special history behind the shrine.
And if the weather keeps on deteriorating like it seems to be doing, I shouldn't be surprised if it starts to hail in a moment.
On the way back to the Dodge, I went to look at this building. Someone standing at the door of the house next door told me that it was formerly an old school that's now been abandoned, but the building doesn't look all that old to me, and anything less like a school I could hardly imagine.
However it doesn't need to be that old because, as I was to discover later, the original school building burnt down in 1945. It made me think that perhaps St Trinians had been evacuated to Lac Baker during the war. There was always arson about wherever those girls were.
And while I'm contemplating this building, the local fire engine puts in an appearance. I wonder to myself how he got on at the 39th Annual Tournament of the East Quebec Fire Brigades, but then I realise that I'm no longer in East Quebec but in New Brunswick.
The next group of people to interrupt my reverie are the members of a group of bikers. There must be a good dozen or so of them and I wonder where it is that they are off to. One thing for sure is that they don't have a very nice day for going there.
So now I can sit down and make my butty as I'm starving, but I'm once more interrupted by a couple of people who ask me the time.
"2:45" I reply helpfully.
"It's surely later than that!" exclaims the male member of the party and I suddenly realise that with being in New Brunswick it's an hour later and so i'll need to put my skates on.
But those vegan cheese slices that I bought this morning at the Metro in Cabano were nice.
Back on Highway 120 and I've just driven through a town called Baker-Brook where I could create my own bird if I so fancied. Apparently it's the feathered and flying variety that they mean and so that holds little interest to me.
Just outside the town I come to a stop as there's a beautiful view of the Saint John River just down there. Across on the other side is The Great Satan, as you might expect. This is my first view of either of them this year, although I shall be seeing much more of them in due course.
But in Baker-Brook (mustn't forget the hyphenfs) is a huge Irving's Pulp Mill and here where I am standing, I can still smell the damp wood. I'm not sure how the locals manage to put up with it but it would get on my wick.
There wasn't much that caught my eye at St Hilaire or at Verret but just here on the edge of Edmundston as I crest a little rise, there's a lovely view of the Saint John River and the Canadian National Railway that links Montreal with Canada's ice-free port of Halifax
One of those trains is actually on the move too.
This is the best view of the town that there is, and I imagine that in the good weather it would be quite nice. But now, it's raining.
Putting my skates on a little, I catch up with the train a little further along the road and take a photo of the locomotives as they pass over an overbridge on their way to Halifax.
There are three engines propelling it and that should tell you, if you've followed many of my journeys around North America where we calculated that each engine represents a quarter-mile of train, that this train is three-quarters of a mile long..
I'm not quite sure though why one of these locomotives would be a machine from the scandal-ridden BC (as in British Columbia) Rail.
Locomotive 4646 is one of the 44-CW versions of the range of Dash-9 diesel locomotives built by one of my former employers, General Electric.
Although she may not look it, she dates from as recently (or recently anyway for a Canadian railway locomotive) from 1993, one of 14 of that type that BC Rail purchased new.
That's where I've just come from - the road that you can see in the distance above the railway bridge, with the Saint John River (the "Saint" in the New Brunswick Saint John is never abbreviated, by the way) swirling around at its foot.
The river that is passing by just in front of us is the Madawaska River and this flows down from Lake Temiscouata where we were first thing this morning.
The promontory between the two rivers was formerly a Malecite settlement.
The rain eased off a little back then and so I left the car for a wander around. And what do you think happened the moment I closed the door?
Absolutely. The rain has come heaving down and I'm being soaked to the skin despite the weatherproof jacket that I am wearing.
You can see exactly what I mean if you look at the photo here. Still, in for a penny, in for a pound. I'm here now so I may as well carry one.
You can't go anywhere in Edmundston without tripping over a paper mill, such as that one over there. The lumber industry has been the major raison d'etre of the city. The first commercial sawmill was built in 1911 by the Fraser Company and the first pulp mill dates from 1918.
However, we'll have a little digression while I take a photo of the nice bow-girder bridge across the river just over there.
This by the way is the same mill as the previous one, although this might well be the part of the plant that is in the USA
The Fraser Company has a mill at Madawaska, which is in Maine, just across the Saint John River as well as the one here in Edmundston. And the bridge that you can see here carries a pipeline to take pulp from the mill at Edmunston to the paper-rolling mill that is in Madawaska.
I've counted at least three sites within a cockstride of the city centre.There's another pulp mill just here (I've no idea which belongs to which company, by the way) so you can see just how dominant lumber is around the town.
Not quite so much though because over the last 20 years or so there have been some redundancies but the Fraser Mill employs over 400 people at the last count, so it is still one of the major employers in the town.
I'm not going to wander far around the town in this weather. There are limits to what I'm prepared to do for my readers. But don't worry. In news that will send property prices plummeting, I'll be back.
The first thing that you will notice about Edmundston is that the centre of the town has been totally rebuilt in modern times. Cynic that I am, I did spend a few minutes wandering around looking for evidence of a major conflagration.
As you know if you came with me along the North Bank of the St Lawrence, almost everywhere that we visited had suffered such a fate and so I was wondering if there was a lot or arson around in New Brunswick too.
On my way back to the Dodge, I walked past one of the civic buildings of the town. It wasn't the civic buildings that caught my eye but the statues over there. I've no idea what they are and in this weather I wasn't going over there to have a look
So back in the car and ready to move on, just let me put your mind at ease because you have no doubt been wondering about the signs here that seem to be written in French.
Much of the border area with Quebec in French-speaking, and Edmundston is the second largest Francophone commuinty in Canada outside the Province of Quebec, after the town of Dieppe down near Moncton.
There are many cities, it should be said, outside the Province of Quebec that have a larger French-speaking population than both Dieppe and Edmundston, but those are minority populations.
Sonow I'm off southwards in the storm to see if I can catch up with that train.