|Birthday Weekend, Part 4: Bathurst (and Pictou, Bouctouche)|
Moncton to Bathurst, NB to Pictou, NS to North Sydney (Map)
I was excited to finally go north from Moncton after going west to Fredericton or Saint John almost a dozen times in the last 5 years. The snowflakes of Moncton soon enough turned into full-on wet snow and flailing windshield wipers, but this didn't bother me all that much. The weather may have prevented me from getting out and walking ankle-deep snow to the abandoned houses lining this road, but to explore a completely new area, NE New Brunswick, was enough to brighten my day.
It was still exhausting to drive in such conditions and I was forced to stop in Bouctouche (above) for coffee, but I grew happy passing through this new town, along with Richibucto & Miramichi.
The highway was interesting enough as well, with aforementioned houses reminding me of Prince Edward Island; except this was upon flatter, more forested roads.
I pulled into the paper mill and zinc mining town of Bathurst around 3 or 4, via a sizable 4-lane highway which zipped you right by the town itself. Since my motel was north of town I had no problem with this, but I also didn't get a feel for the place just yet either.
I grew worried as I approached the lobby of John's Motel, thinking it was too early for the motel proprietor to be around. Turning around, I thankfully noticed someone walking over from a nearby house who asked if I needed a room, which I found to be charming in accordance with the small town feel I acquired in just the short drive from the highway exit.
Taking the motel key and going into my wood paneled, reasonably priced room; I plopped down and was very happy with my legwork in avoiding the cookie cut Comfort Inn of Bathurst. Turning on the tv, I freaked out at the Packers game being in French, before eventually finding it in English in this bilingual area.
With a few hours to kill, I kicked back and watched some football and had a few beers. The actual town of Bathurst is about 6 km from John's Motel, so I didn't have much else to do since I didn't want to walk the outskirts.
I called a cab around 6pm so that I could get over to the K.C. Irving Regional Centre for tonight's QMJHL game. The cabbie was a 50ish woman who talked of having a prostitute for a roommate, her friend getting busted with 4k in drugs and how she used to have a lawyer husband who would fly her all over the country to CFL games.
I'm not sure how to work that into this story, but it surely wasn't what I was expecting when I got in the cab and judged this woman by her book cover.
I would thank the cabbie for the ride and stepped out onto the icy pavement. Appreciating the 1996 arena before me, I then had to make ninja moves to avoid slipping on the blacktop covered in a very thin slippery surface.
I better get inside!
Have I mentioned that Bathurst is small?
Even when they moved to Bathurst from Laval, the population was 13,800, but now with the loss of industry it is down to 12,300. The lobby of the K.C. Irving centre was cramped and very small. I almost felt like I was back watching Jr.C hockey in southwestern Ontario.
After purchasing a ticket, I would move onto the concourse and realized I was at a Q game as opposed to back home. Sure this isn't the 10,595 capacity of Halifax's Metro Centre, but Bathurst sits at a capacity of 3,162, which is on par with the games I had seen in Victoriaville (3,420) or Drummondville (3,038).
It is funny to think that the Titan play at the same level as the Windsor Spitfires or the London Knights. Then again that's why I love QMJHL hockey so much more - it is generally played in smaller barns which aren't the mini-NHL palaces of the OHL.
In fact, I quite liked how the arena in Bathurst didn't have a Jumbotron, so there wasn't any of that kiss cam nonsense.
The edges of the seats were crowded, but boy were there a lot of empty seats! The reason I had made this a birthday priority was because of the rumour of possible Acadie-Bathurst Titan relocation, so I was curious as to whether the town had given up, people didn't like Sunday 4PM games or were the Titan playing so poorly people didn't care to pay admission.
One of the sadder things was watching a teenage employee trying to find an adequate row for a fan giveaway promotion.
Eventually I left my assigned seat near the top0 and moved into a large swath of empty seats below. Generally I like a few empty seats around me, but I'll sit in the upper areas for such a luxury. This was a strange Bathurst inverse phenomenon, where everyone crowded the standing area and very few people went down to actual seats.
Hopefully this attendance problem will improve though, as in the time since I've went on this trip, news broke of a group of 28 local investors and Titan alumni coming together to buy the team and solidify its place in Bathurst.
Some of those alumni include Roberto Luongo...and my boy Patrice Bergeron! (You can see their numbers hanging in the rafters in the above picture).
There's another group of incredibly legendary names hanging from the rafters as well, but their retired numbers come from the days when the team was playing in Laval as the Voisons (Lemieux) or the National (Bossy).
I walked comfortably in the uncrowded concourse to the only open beer counter and wondered if all the beer was what I saw in the small cooler before me; but alas, Bathurst didn't get even more quaint points, as the guy told me that they have plenty of beer "out back".
Of course I had to have my customary poutine, which was fantastique! in Bathurst, almost comparable to Quebec...sacre bleu! The only thing I'd downgrade it for was that it was pretty small, coming in a styrofoam hot dog container.
So okay, #4 poutine rank for Bathurst? Drummondville, Victoriaville, Gatineau, Bathurst, Sydney, Moncton, Charlottetown? Yep.
As for the actual game (lol), Chicoutimi was in town after I had just seen them 18 hours earlier in Moncton. It was evident that Chicoutimi was the better team, but that they were tired. Bathurst took the win 7-4 and the northeastern New Brunswickers rejoiced!
Thinking about the axle nut I needed to fix my bike prior to the game, I decided to just get it afterwards at the Wal-Mart next door - thinking that if Corner Brook has a Wal-Mart that's open late, then everywhere must have a late night Wal-Mart...
Sure enough, Bathurst's Wal-Mart was closed by 7PM on a Sunday.
It was misting outside by now, as I turned away and started the walk towards the motel. The arena is located in the type of sprawl area you see above, with a standard 1990s theatre across the street and some bootleg Boston Pizza style restaurant beside it.
I had to crack up as I walked back past the arena and went by the skatepark out front, which I'd estimate to have cost somewhere around $250k.
I think it goes without saying that I'd prefer the town with the $250k skatepark, to the town with a late night Wal-Mart.
The walk from the arena out in suburban sprawl to downtown Bathurst is about 2.5 km. Thankfully it grew warmer by this time, but it was still chilly along the causeway where the Bathurst Basin opens up into the harbour.
I would have settled for any decent dining establishment along the way, but only came across a KFC. Turning into downtown on a Sunday in December, there was a Mediterranean spot closing up, an incredibly busy Chinese restaurant, a mom n' pop shop and a fancier place, the Phantom. After not getting a seat at the Chinese place, I decided on the Phantom, where I sat for 10 minutes while no waitresses attended to my desires.
Tired from walking all over downtown in search of food, I left the Phantom and started back towards John's Motel, accepting Burger King, after the only other choice I noticed was a seedy bar which likely wasn't serving food on a Sunday night.
It was nice to explore a new downtown in Bathurst, but it was also nice to finally get back to the motel and relax.
I remedied last night's mediocre dining by stopping at a bakery for breakfast; before going to a Canadian Tire where I still couldn't find a bloody axle nut.
Tight for time, I briefly walked around Bathurst's downtown again, snapping pictures here and there.
Bathurst's old post office.
The ferry from North Sydney is a seven hour drive from Bathurst, so I really needed to get going.
I had one last stop in mind though, the Odd Fellows home in Pictou, Nova Scotia.
The Odd Fellows Home had stood here for more than 200 years. I knew about this place for a long time, as when it stopped being a nursing home for Odd Fellows, it became a B&B. I planned to stay at the B&B for a few years, but never got around to it & eventually found out that it had closed. After seeing the place in very heavy decay while driving to PEI for that golf trip, I knew I needed to get back over here before some local rube set it ablaze.
(History: This building wasn't always an Odd Fellows Home, it started out as the Mortimer House, built upon Norway Point by one Edward Mortimer. Mortimer was a lumber man who would come to own several resource-based businesses, allowing him to ship in fellow Scottish masons and carpenters to construct his residence. Eventually though, debt would catch up with Mortimer & he would die in poverty in 1819. His widow lived in the house for 15 more years, before it passed hands between more wealthy men. It would eventually pass onto the Odd Fellows & Rebekahs of Atlantic Canada, who made it a home for their elderly members and their widows/children. This group would keep the house until the 1990s, when they started to complain about the narrow hallways in terms of wheelchairs and the ambulance response time in such a labyrinthine complex. They would move out in 1999 and sell the house to the B&B owner, who would make a go of it before closing in 2003. He relied on the town to board up the building and the police to keep people out, but would ultimately let his house fall into ruin in order to demolish the structure and build new residential property on the pronounced land beside the Pictou causeway.)
I didn't expect to get inside as this is a prominent building in small town Nova Scotia; but it was shockingly easy.
That unfortunately meant I was ill-prepared and didn't get very far or make any good pictures.
I instantly planned how to get back to Nova Scotia in order to see this house in short order, but after slacking on it for a good while, I found out it was demolished in January of 2013.
I would leave Pictou and continue eastward towards home this night.
Anyway, a decent, if not a bit peculiar of a birthday.
Thanks for reading.
Go Back to the Main Page of this Website
1 - Wikipedia - Bathurst, NB
2 - Virtual Museum.ca - The Bathurst Pulp and Paper Industry
3 - QMJHL Arena Guide - Acadie-Bathurst Titan
4 - New Glasgow News - A Look Back at Mortimer House's 200-year History
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