I have entered, for the first time in my life, the Atlantic time zone, having arrived in Fredericton, New Brunswick on Wednesday morning. The trip was uneventful. I spent so much time and energy packing my bike in one box and my panniers in another – making sure that the weights and dimensions were not in excess of Air Canada’s continually shrinking limits – that I was almost (but not quite) disappointed that no one at the airport even bothered to weigh or measure them. Fear not, however – I was not left without anything about which to complain: my pre-ordered (and pre-paid) meal never showed up at my seat. Of course, “meal” is a bit of an over-enthusiastic description for what would probably have turned out to be a tasteless Quizno’s something-or-other and a tiny packet of crisps, the combined volume of which probably would not have exceeded the total packaging surrounding them, so perhaps I should be grateful. I did not suffer for lack, however, as Larissa had taken me to a very pleasing and filling French dinner before departure that warded off hunger all the way to Fredericton.
I even have something positive to say about Air Canada. Really! It’s not simply jet-lag induced delirium. There is a small screen in each seat, and a selection of films. As usual, there are a number of schlocky Hollywood titles available, none of which I cared to see even a trailer for. An unexpected additional option, however, includes four French films, with English subtitles. I was able to sit back in my window seat and enjoy a choice (“Un Secret“) from my favourite genre: the Holocaust. And you wonder why I’m so dark.
Fredericton, I am happy to report, is not dark. It is sunny and, most importantly, warm. Hot, even. It’s been a tad chill in Vancouver recently, and any temperature over 12 degrees would be a welcome change, but I was able to enjoy cycling into town from the airport in highly satisfying 24 degree comfort. It’s not all bliss, though. As I sat on the front lawn of Fredericton’s tiny-but-pleasant airport re-assembling my bicycle, the local mosquitoes relieved me of no small amount of blood.
So here I am, travelling once again. I’m not sure if this cycling thing is going to work out, or if my knees will collapse along the way somewhere, but I am hoping that the new bike will make the difference between pain and pleasure. The plan (such as it is) is to spend a few days in Fredericton visiting Darren and Brian, and then to cycle in an as-yet non-specific south-easterly direction. I intend to arrive at Easton Mountain (the ‘commune’ in New York that I stayed at last summer) by June 24. If the knees don’t work out, I’ll send the bike home and take the bus.
Last night, Darren, Brian and I attended the award ceremony for the 2008 Strathbutler award, given to a visual artist by the Sheila Hugh McKay Foundation at the Fredericton Playhouse Theatre. This was preceded by a gala private cocktail reception in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. One oddity was the bar at the gallery where, when I asked for red wine, I was told by the bartender that dark beverages are not available in the gallery. “I guess a Guinness is out of the question?”, I asked. He laughed as he poured my white wine, but I never did get further explanation. An Acadian tradition?
As ceremonies of this sort go, it was pretty good. It was well organised and stuck to its already compact schedule. As well, a short welcoming speech by New Brunswick’s Lieutenant-Governor Herménégilde Chiasson was the most intelligent and passionate defense of the arts I have ever heard from a colonial representative of the queen (though that is perhaps an unfair description, as he is more accomplished and respected artist and intellect than regal mouthpiece).
The weather continues to be hot and sunny, though there is the possibility of rain forecast for the weekend. Today, I will be out cycling on the north ‘shore’ of the St John River, testing my knee before I decide whether to venture across the Appalachians under full pack.