The 'historical' storm which closed down New York and Boston struck us when we were in Truro. We arrived in this town at the top of the Bay of Fundy in clear sunshine, but overnight the long anticipated storm arrived in the Canadian Atlantic Provinces and we woke up to a thick fresh snow cover, with '511' Road Reports saying that the Trans-Canada Highway we needed to use to get across New Brunswick were all closed except for ploughs and 'official vehicles'. We didn't think we'd qualify, so we had to cool our heels an extra day in Truro. The main reason for the closures, apparently, was the strong winds blowing the fresh snow and causing zero visibility.
The following day, snow was still falling, but the official reports showed the highways were open, if snow covered. The description was 'passable with caution', so after spending an hour getting the ice off our car windows, we set out. Temperature was -10C. The whole 350km was snow covered, with ploughs out working, although not hard enough we thought at times. The 100km stretch between Truro and Amhurst in Nova Scotia goes over a lowish mountain range and was the worst. Traffic was very light - we found it best to stay behind a steady driving semi-trailer about 100m back. The road is a divided highway, but all that was visible was two tyre tracks. Only a few intrepid drivers attempted passing manoevres around us in the untracked snow, luckily without incident.
Entering New Brunswick, the terrain eases and conditions improved, including visibility. Generally, we could now see a full single line of tarmac. We stopped for petrol in Moncton, and then our road separated from the highway back to Saint John to head west towards Fredericton. This four-lane freeway was quieter than the Nullarbor Plain. We'd drive for long periods without seeing another vehicle. Most of this section was pine forest, very pretty with snow on the branches, with numerous signs warning of moose. Signs of civilisation were few and far between, and when we did see them, we commented that the landscape looked like an Antarctic research station, a few low buildings surrounded by and covered in deep snow. We popped in for a cuppa at a lone gas station at the turn-off to Chipman.
Arriving in Fredericton, we ran into another really heavy snow storm. At least the wind was light. Big fluffy flakes! We have never seen a town covered in so much snow. From Truro, we had seen on TV that Fredericton had copped the brunt of the previous storm, and now it was getting a top-up. Ploughs abounded, but couldn't keep up and the roads remained well covered. We soon discovered that at intersections, you have to ease forward to see the oncoming traffic over the height of the uncleared snow on the kerbs. Luckily, the snow is so dry that cars seem to have pretty good traction. By nightfall, the snow had stopped falling.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. The sun shining on such deep piles of snow in a city just looked glorious. Downtown in search of espresso, we noticed that Fredericton, which is the capital of the Province of New Brunswick, was quite busy. This is noteworthy, because we haven't seen anywhere else looking busy so far in Canada, in fact, nowhere really since we left New York. Even Boston was quiet.
We undertook another 350km drive to get to the Gulf of St Lawrence, in brilliant sunshine, no wind, and still -10C. Talk about crisp! North of Fredericton, the snow was deep, but we suspect not quite as fresh. The recent storm must have tracked south and east of here, and the road maintenance authorities have thus been able to tidy up very well. This part of the Trans-Canada was immaculate. Not only is the freeway superb in design and construction, but it was perfectly clear of snow and dry. No effort to maintain the posted limit of 110km/hr.
When the sun is out, the ploughs can really do a good job making the Trans-Canada Highway as neat as a pin.
Of course, we then discussed why Australia, with a population about two thirds that of Canada and a country almost as big, can't have roads like this. The New Brunswick freeways traverse this large and rather empty state in both directions and look as if they have actually been planned instead of randomly and grudgingly thrown up in acts of political expediency and pork-barrelling.
We had noticed on the map a reference to the longest covered bridge in the world at Hartland. Whilst looking for it, our Jeep's rather canny control system announced that we were running out of windscreen washer fluid. In these conditions, we are constantly using the washers to clean slush and spray off both front and back screens, so we decided to respond. In Sydney, we only use water, but at -10 we thought that unadvisable, and a very helpul mechanic in Woodstock not only told us what to use, but poured the required methyl hydrate based liquid (so he said) in for us. We now know where the blue coloured ice on the car's bonnet had come from! The mechanic also told us where to find the bridge. We discovered that it's on a regular road that you can drive through/over.
Another stop on the road to Quebec was at Grand-Falls where we assumed, correctly, there would be a significant waterfall. We found the falls right beside a complicated intersection and a traffic jam in the centre of town. The falls were quite spectacular in a deep gorge and were about 90% frozen, although you could see some flow through breaks in the ice.
All along the freeways we traversed in New Brunswick, there were moose fences on either side. Every so often, there is a moose crossing zone which is no more or less than a kilometer or so where there is no fence. These areas are well marked with moose warning signs. Obviously, the authorities have studied moose psychology. The moose fence has numerous one-way gates which will allow moose in but not out - these are always in pairs, facing either direction, so a wayward moose walking along the fence will re-enter the protected zone without turning or realising he has been caught. We had hundreds of these to study as we went past, but we never saw a moose, although we saw plenty of tracks. In fact, apart from a few dead critters, we haven't seen any four-legged wildlife on this whole trip, except for a fox on Cape Cod and a deer in someone's front yard in St Stephen.
Possibly the most remarkable feature of the near 800km journey through New Brunswick from Nova Scotia to Quebec, half going west, half going north, is the slow but sure transition from English to French as the default language. There is certainly not a step change across any border, but you notice the pronounced incidence of French in both the written and spoken word well before arriving at the Quebec border. Also, interestingly, for most of the final 300km of this north-boundjourney, the road tracks beside the US border. The way Maine pokes deeply into Canada here is a mystery we must explore.