|Tubing down the Little West Miramichi River|
Stewarts Tubing Inc
Lyttleton New Brunswick
By Friday afternoon, it was a plan, and the whole Island family was invited to come along with assorted significant others, all except Shamus and my nephew Tyler who opted out of the tubing, but were totally down for a night of camping with Caroline and I, especially with the thought of a wee bit of a fireside party thrown in.
Right, we simply had to find out When Wendy was going to be arriving at Stewart's Tubing Inc and I could then plan when we needed to leave to have a nice ride up and make it on time to be part of the fun on the river. Wendy had rented a "Dog Tube" from Stewarts, and as they were the only outfit that clearly allowed dogs, that was to be the destination. The dog tube is basically a tube with a durable fabric bottom that the dog could stand, sit, or lie upon.
Shamus was going to pick up my nephew Tyler as he was working night shift and wouldn't be off until 0800 that morning, so Caroline asked him to bring a few items with him so that we weren't going to have to try to outfit them both from what little we could bring on the bike. The list included a pot and frying pan, a small butane stove that was a fantastic car camping resource, and some bedding including her spare air mattress. I think Tyler was going to try to find the old 3 man tent that I'd given them way back when I bought my Alps Lynx 2 in 2012. That tent was a Bass Pro special that I'd purchased for $50 dollars for my first moto-camping adventure back in 2006 for the Parry Sound Sport Bike Rally way back in the day.
So we figured that if we left Caroline's place at 0700, that would put us in great shape for arriving in Lyttleton NB which is where Stewart Tubing is located.
2020-08-08 The Tubing in Miramichi - https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1yuzivi442lK1cViA9spYjSaL9NRd1R1J&usp=sharing
Day 1 - Charlottetown PE to Lyttleton NB to Miramichi NB - Drive 352 km, 4 hours, 32 minutes
|Charlottetown PE to Miramichi NB|
Remember last weekend when I was almost 30 minutes late? Hah! This weekend I was bang on time rolling out in front of Caroline's driveway to find that she had been held up a bit, which gave me plenty of time to fiddle with my old and now almost obsolete Garmin 60cx to add a waypoint in for the address we needed for Stewarts Tubing. I found Lyttleton New Brunswick, and that was close enough for horse shoes, hand grenades, and me. Caroline got her helmet on and we were off to the mainland! Another item worth mentioning, is that we had made a mistake and chosen leather riding jackets last weekend for Cape Breton and suffered for it, so today we were in our mesh jackets, and even with the cooler morning air, we could tell it was going to be a scorcher today. I had on my camel-back with a couple of litres of water in it, and even a wee ice pack that would keep the water a bit cooler through the day.
We were through the checkpoint in no time, with the agent we spoke to advising us that the river was low and we might have more fun than we bargained for at Stewarts. She recommended Gallans or Vickers as being on a different, deeper river before wishing us joy of the day and waving us on. Hmmm. Back onto 16 the Trans Canada highway heading just a wee bit up to the very next exit that would put us onto NB 955 headed along the coast and through Murray Corner NB. It's a lovely bit of road, though not in the best of shape, but it does bypass most of highway 16 full of cages, tractor trailers and the dreaded slow moving turtles, the RVs and campers that ultimately set the slow pace all of its twenty six kilometres. Mike T. showed this route to me when I first arrived on the Island back in 2012, and I've been using it as an option to bypass most of the main road ever since. Caroline enjoys it as well, but once in a while it feels pretty rough, especially on the homeward leg when it can bounce you a wee bit. Sport bikes with suspension set up for the track would enjoy the twists and turns, but shake their fists at me in anger if I recommended this road to them, so you speed fan boys just stay on the highway and try to keep those passes as safe as possible, eh? Caroline had never used our Cardo Scala G4 sets to make a call out, so I told her the steps and it failed miserably. Apparently she didn't have the phone set up quite right to allow the bluetooth to interact with her phone in that manner, but once she had it working, she was able to test call me, then reach out to her son Shamus to chivvy him along and make sure there were no obstacles that would prevent him and Tyler from joining us later. I laughed a bit at her mothering, but I suppose my Mom would have done the same thing had I had a cellphone back in the day. Thank god it was "catch and release" back in my day. :)
We left NB 955 at Mates Corner where we stopped for a moment so Caroline could jam her ear plugs in, and then took off on 15 headed North West towards Moncton. We were making time down the boring highway as quickly as possible with an eye towards a coffee and a breakfast sandwich at McDonalds, so we passed a few cars and kept the momentum moving as Caroline led us unerringly to our exit at the Magnetic Hill exit off of the Trans Canada 2. I should mention that there had been a wee kerfuffle earlier just where there was a bit of construction on 2, as Caroline was blocking her lane position nicely as we made paralleled an on ramp while in the construction zone, and I was following along in the left tire track, when suddenly she hit reserve and had to switch the fuel valve over mid corner from full to reserve. The engine braking on that 2004 V-twin is strong enough to act as an engine brake, and she seemed to be hitting the brakes mid corner and I was catching up on her awfully fast! Too fast for comfort, and I both applied my brakes and changed my line mid corner to avoid her. She very quickly got it back up to speed again and rolling on down the road, but for a minute there I found that I had been guilty of following too closely... Lesson learned. Give her more room. She's a well skilled rider, but lady luck will always toss out a curve ball once in a while.
Once off, we dropped into Irvings for fuel, and instead of asking why did these two chickens cross the road to get to the McDonalds on the other side, we thought we would have another Subway Breakfast sandwich and a coffee from the Tim Hortons on this side of the busy road. Great idea! But Tim Hortons was only working the drive through, so Caroline picked up a Starbucks cold coffee Mocha energy drink, while I thought some more water would be a great idea. We each got the sausage on english muffin, and while the egg is not fresh (it's frozen thawed, heated in the microwave) having our pick of cheese and fresh vegetables with garlic aioli really makes these sandwiches fantastic. Add in the "twofer" deal, and our breakfast cost us $5.75 and was delicious! We were treated so well by the staff at the Subway, and while in line enjoyed kibitzing with a fellow customer, that it was smiles all around. When the girl heard that we were going tubing we had a nice little conversation about her experiences on the river as well. All in all a nice little stop where we had our breakfast at the stone tables outside, and watched the vehicles leave the drive thru. Fuel in our bellies and in our bikes, it was time to get going the short ride over to NB 126 and north up Lutes Mountain. (More of a big hill, actually)
NB 126 was running fast, and is in pretty decent shape for most of it's length, and we found ourselves in Miramichi in no time, an hour early in fact, so we headed over to Enclosure Campground and found out that they were full up, but they very kindly offered us an overflow site which I happily took, although they charge the most I've paid on the East Coast to date. One tent ran us under $35 dollars, but the extra tent was another $20 and with the deposit on a key for the washroom, we hit $71 and change! Wow. There was a sign at the office regarding a current dry weather fire ban, but the girl in the registration office said it might change at 1400 if the province wide burn ban was lifted.
Right, we rode out to the site, had a ride past the washrooms, then stopped in to have a breather. In my mind I wanted to set up our tent(s) and toss off a bunch of gear, but Caroline wasn't comfortable leaving anything behind, and we needed to be at Stewart's for 1230. She called Shamus and gave him directions all while I grinned and thought of how I'd used a paper map and a Silva Ranger compass back in the day to navigate.
|Ooh! Tell me again about magnetic declination?|
Google Maps takes all the joy out of it.
I later pointed out to her that all she needed to do was to send him a dropped pin on google maps, and it could guide him right to us, provided he as smart enough not to try to ford the river in his Corolla and take the bridge instead. It didn't go over quite as well as I had thought, for I suppose mother's don't joke about their kids enough. I should tell you now that I don't have any kids, but I am firmly for enabling them by instruction and that tried and true "catch and release" method that my mom used. I guess in a sense it taught two people. Mom would have to get her instructions right the first time, and I'd have to listen the first time, for there was no text messaging or location sharing. I will admit that I can be accused of goading my sister into giving her two boys enough rope to hand themselves. Perhaps that isn't a very good analogy... Hahaha!
I shared this while Caroline was busy with something...
Too funny. She really loves that boy, and wanted to make sure he would have a great weekend with us. Gotta admire that. Shamus is a cool kid (young adult), sort of a big teddy bear with a cellphone, in crocs, usually with grin on his face.
She did have a great idea of taking a photo of the campground map and sharing it with the group so everyone knew just where we were on the ground, and followed that up with a photo of the site itself just in case Shamus and Tyler couldn't use a perfectly good GPS built into their phones. :)
I'd have given the boys something like this: @46.9608583,-65.5908498 and let them decide if the tent was going up in Greenland or Miramichi. If you want directions ask Caroline, if you want an adventure, then make sure your vehicle is off road capable and I'd be happy to oblige. ;)
Right, that sorted out, it was time to head to Lyttleton and Stewarts to meet up with Wendy-Sue, Captain Kirk and the rest of the gang of desperados in the Jeep. Garmin plotted us a 30 min ride along NB 425 that follows the river through some native lands at Eel River, then along some roads that seem to get progressively worse. Caroline was "oomphing" and I may have been using a cuss word or two as our bikes beat their way over the worst the road had to offer. I'd have preferred a Dual Sport, but the twists and turns of the river road were engaging, but it was a bit hard to watch the road and enjoy the scenery at the same time.
The entrance to Stewarts is a steep gravelled driveway that runs at an acute angle off of the road proper, and as I did a rear brake almost U-turn to get onto it, I heard
"You have got to be kidding me!
I'll see you in a bit once I get turned around"as she'd run into some problems on a gravel hill in Cape Breton last weekend, which involved her spending around $70 dollars and her lunch break in order to mount some dual sport folding mirrors onto her Adventure Shadow. I think she might have been just a tad gun shy and opted for the safer approach rather than test out those mirrors. ;) That driveway was gravelled with the big teeth rattling aggregate, not that lovely small crushed rock we see, so even I was a bit concerned that it might roll out from under my tires, but there was no build up and it was pretty much embedded and packed down well. I've a bit of history with golf and fist sized rocks on a road under construction that almost saw me have a yard sale in front of a steam roller. Hahaha.
We arrived about fifteen minutes early and paid, then made use of the change huts to get into our swim suits, and picked out a bit of shade to wait in as Wendy was still on the road.
Shamus:"We're in Moncton"
Caroline:"Haha. The location you sent is 5600 km away!"
Perhaps it's a good thing that Caroline called him with instructions after all.
Wendy-Sue was running late so as we sat in the shade, one of the owners approached us and asked how we were enjoying the afternoon, and wouldn't we really prefer to sit in the shade under the awning over there and pointed in the direction of what I took to be a little gazebo over by the school bus pick up location... We politely declined as we wanted to stay in the shade and be able to spot my sisters Jeep rolling into the parking lot (grassy field). He asked if we would like a couple of chairs brought out and again we declined as we didn't want to inconvenience him solely for our comfort. Next thing you know he is pulling a couple of old folding chairs out of the shed in front of us, and placing them within reach, for which we offered him our thanks and grinned like school children to be caught out with our hands in a mud pie by an adult. Up off the grass and into the chairs. lol. I was enjoying this Stewarts place all the more. They made provision for dog lovers and made sure their guests were comfortable. I really liked their style, although I'd have let me rot in the mud and ants and only given a chair to the lady at my side. ;)
|The star of the show has arrived and we can get going!|
|Must sniff bum!|
Mosby humoured me by posing, but then before we could swap places, the family was ready to go and we headed over to the gazebo to wait for our shuttle bus. Ordinarily we would have been packed in like sardines, but COVID-19 meant that the tour company only allowed groups to sit together, and they tried to maintain at least the two metres distance by leaving one bench empty on the bus. They seemed to be doing a great job, wearing face shields and spritzing everyone with hand sanitizer after wiping down the newly arrived bus to sanitize it for the next group of people. The staff made sure to check Kirk's cooler for glass bottles as they are not allowed on the river for fear of broken glass on the rocks. Later on while swimming I could clearly see why they do it that way.
After seeing what some of the other people were bringing, I felt that I was definitely on the gear heavy side. Hat, sunglasses, camelback, waterproof camera, motocross shirt, bathing suit and my Keen sandals, along with Caroline's cellphone in a waterproof (soon to be tested!) pouch.
Captain Kirk was hauling along the cooler, and I gathered that it contained all the items that were significant to them, such as the beverages for the river and other odds and ends.
Off to school we go!
|The Captain is guarding the cooler|
|Mosby! This one is for you! Where are you going?!|
Ha! The trick of wedging my not inconsiderable butt was to find a level of water that allows me to gracefully fall backwards and land arse first in the hole without tumbling out was fairly easy once I'd recovered from my earlier attempts. I found myself floating along with my camelback and my waterproof camera in the lazy current, and then I had to turn my attention to trying to stop as I was floating away downriver, away from my family and the lovely Caroline!
Catrina! Catrina! I called, extending my arm out towards her in a desperate attempt to grasp her slender fingers in mine, hope mixed with anguish writhing for control on my face... as the current swept me on past her down the river and towards the open ocean. Perhaps to wither in the salt air dreaming of rescue days or weeks later. Was I man enough? Could I ration the water long enough to make it last? There was a scene in the Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn from the 1987 movie "Overboard" that told the story of the two lovers, Catrina and Arturo. Go ahead and read that story in the link. Then you will understand all future references to "Arturo" and "Catrina". :D
Meanwhile, back in the river, Mosby feels as if he needs to get this river barge moving, but perhaps in the wrong direction and back up river to the shore... He's a strong little guy!
|Mosby, we want deeper water!|
|Ryan and Alex, floating on down the river|
"Remember what they told us on the bus?! Ripples mean rocks! Save yourselves!"
With that she would push off into deeper water, incidentally sending me rebounding into shallow water where my "keel" would smash against the rocks, pounding and pounding until I'd begin to come apart at the very seams!
See those beacons of the purest white? Others were using them as sort of a navigation buoy, and if they saw them stationary, would pilot back out into the deeper water of the main channel.
|Navigational Aids, slathered in SPF50+ as I don't want these puppies turning brown!|
We really were having a good time, and splashed each other like kids in the backyard pool as we floated along. We were now falling behind the family flotilla, their tubes lashed together to provide a better chance of survival in the fast moving water, the outer tubes shielding those of the inner circle with their very lives! Mosby ever vigilant watching for sea monsters, squirrels, kraken and other river hazards.
|All clear sailing ahead Cap'n!|
If you hear banjos on the river, paddle faster!
There were the official "Stewarts Tubing Inc" floating down river, but also those of private means, and you were often drifting past cottagers relaxing on the shore in their chairs, sipping their cold drinks and watching the fun.
I spent a lot more energy and effort than I had expected to move that tube in the water, trying to get downriver and catch up to the flotilla.
Everybody hold tight! The rapids are coming!!!
And they're gone again.
My nephew Ryan and his girlfriend who instigated all of this for us, Ale, floating on down river.
Wendy gave up on her own tube as Mosby is much happier perched on top of her.
|Photo Credit: Caroline|
|Photo Credit: Caroline|
|Photo Credit: Caroline|
Wendy-Sue came out to join me in the deeper water and we splashed around a bit, and Caroline came out to join in the fun. I think she was excited by the idea of ganging up on me with Wendy-Sue as a willing accomplice... ALARM!!! DIVE DIVE DIVE!!!
Our fellow tubers, eh?
There was a rope swing tied to that tree on leaning out over the river, but the water was so shallow it seemed almost a "Hold my beer and watch this..." moment from Reddit or Fail Army. I apologize for the sound, it really is pretty bad, and I've no idea what happened with it, but it improves in a second or two.
"Don't be a wuss!!!"
Further down river, we saw what flood waters that severe rain can do to the river bank. It had been pushed back about twenty feet, and we found birch trees and shrubs still an obstacle that needed to be skirted.
|Get your souvenirs!|
|I want to go that way to avoid the ripples up ahead. Make it slow.|
All ahead full, Ron.
|The Rod and Gun|
or Rotten Gut Clubhouse
as we used to call it on CFB Borden
Ring Ring! Ring Ring! Caroline's son Shamus was calling no doubt, and I had no idea that Caroline was going to ask for her phone that was in it's waterproof pouch, rolled up and stuffed into a wee pocket in my camelback... And submerged completely from time to time as I got up to river side shenanigans. Ever since the swimming, Caroline had simply fastened it round one side of my tube, and I'd been content to sip from the drink tube from time to time. It was hot on the river, but you simply needed to splash yourself down from time to time, and hope that the SPF50+ really was as waterproof as it claimed, otherwise I was going to be in a world of hurt this time tomorrow.
Well, I was relieved to hear it ringing, and the bag was completely dry on the inside, but Caroline was unable to answer his call through the durable plastic so she took the phone out and put him on speakerphone while I listened in. Apparently the emergency was Shamus and Typer wondering if they should purchase ice for the cooler and beverages in town or was there perhaps ice available at the campsite? Hahaha! I'm so glad I'm not a mother! Although I really used to worry about my dog Suzi, and on more than one occasion I wished that I could call home from work and ask how her day was going, so yeah, I get it mostly, but I'm still allowed to laugh from the comfort of my lounge chair on the deck of the TT Poseidon. :D
|Hello? Can I ask you to hold please?|
|Go ahead caller number five, you are on the air.|
Caroline was getting a bit too warm and opted to don her light sun shirt. It was wet enough to cool her down. Mine certainly was!
|Can you see the family of ducks?|
|This family had stopped to let their dog cool off|
See that ripple up ahead? Watch the animation below to see more. that is a barely submerged rock that you are going to bounce your "keel" on if you let it. Lol.
|Yep. I bounced my Keel off of it. Hahaha!|
We were nearing a pretty shallow part of the river, and Caroline and I really paid attention to the river course up ahead, and how shallow the water was, as I was so lazy that I simply didn't relish the idea of trying to unwedge myself out of the tube from upon a grounded rock, then portage over a field of stone only to wedge myself back into the tube once more. Caroline used her superior navigational skills to keep me abreast of which direction we should be piloting our precarious craft along, and for the most part she was spot on with one exception where the river was moving quickly and the water was so shallow, that I would ground out, then her tube would whiplash in a half circle around mine, and her momentum would jerk my tube back into motion! We were playing crack the whip with our "Keels" taking a beating... Lol. Eventually I got hung up so firmly that I jerked Caroline to a stop, and I was forced to bounce and kick my way along into deeper water where it was now smooth sailing until the next fork in the river.
"We need to go right!"
"I'm trying!!! And it's Starboard!"
"If we don't go right faster, you will be in Port!!! Get it? Full ahead!!!"
|Cast off all lines fore and aft!!!|
Kirk and Wendy were going to spend the night in a hotel with Mosby, and invited us to join them for take out, but as Shamus and Tyler were waiting on us, and had relayed there desire for a "Chili dog" supper, we politely declined and headed into town once we'd changed back into some drier clothing.
A trip to the local Atlantic Superstore, and we managed to buy far too much food for four people, and some drinks that would keep Caroline and I entertained later that evening. I was still hoping that we would find the fire ban had been lifted so we could buy some softwood and enjoy a campfire, but unfortunately it was still in effect and we rolled in to find the management had dropped off a picnic table and a fire pit on our site! Awesome! We've left our camp chairs at home when every site we stayed out always had a picnic table. Hauling along a chair simply made no sense and losing the extra bulk and weight was nice as well. Shamus and Tyler had managed to fill most of the top of the table with their purchases of junk food, but that cooler full of ice made a welcome sight and I was very happy indeed to load our drinks into it as it was going to be a hot night indeed!
Caroline and I are old hands at this, and I focused on the larger Chaos 3, while she helped the boys set up my Lynx 2, all while they protested that they didn't need a tent as they were going to sleep under the stars... Ah to be young again! :)
With the tents now up and staked in, it was getting late and that Breakfast sandwich that Caroline and I had shared earlier this morning, offset with half a protein bar of melted chocolate and peanut butter that we'd eaten just before boarding the shuttle bus at 1330 was long gone, and we were hungry, almost "hAngry" as Caroline puts it, and I was happy to see that Shamus had retrieved the butane stove that Caroline had purchased for my birthday last year. I'm a bit of a stove junkie and I loved this one, but had loaned it to Caroline's mother just in case her power went out. It was a great indoors solution for brewing up a pot of coffee or cooking supper in a pot should the need arise.