Vive le Madawaska!

Monday, June 14, 2010 Road Junkies 1 Comments

Day 45:  Presque Isle, ME to Quebec City, QC
Along the border of Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec is an area along the Saint John River valley known as Madawaska.  Long ago when only the native peoples lived in the area, they named it Madawaska, the land of the porcupines.  Then French fur traders arrived and set up a trading post in Madawaska.
When the Acadians, French settlers in Nova Scotia, were forcibly deported by the British military in 1755, some made their way to the Madawaska area and built their homes along the banks of the Saint John.  A short while later, at the close of the eighteenth century, French-Canadian colonists from Quebec came to Madawaska and also settled to farm the lowlands. Families joined together into one hard-working community living contentedly on either side of the river. 

In 1842, after an extended border dispute, a treaty was devised making the Saint John River the border between the United States and Britain's North American colonies, which later became Canada.  And so, with a single stroke of the pen, thousands of family members were split into two different nations.  But the border has not separated the huge extended families ranging through the valley.
In the town of Madawaska, Maine, the Acadian Cross is a memorial to the Acadian pioneers who settled in the area.  A grove of trees planted in honor of the pioneer families borders the perimeter of the memorial park.
Each tree is designated with a marker indicating the family for whom the tree is planted.
The town treasures its Acadian heritage, and banners in the design of the Acadian flag decorate Main Street, joined today by U.S. flags in honor of the American celebration of Flag Day.

Another celebration was underway in Madawaska, ME, today by some motorcycle riders.  When we visited the town's Four Corners Park in search of a letterbox, we met Bob from Texas who is participating with a friend in the Motorcycling Association's USA Four Corners Tour for long distance touring riders.
Four towns are designated as the most northeast (Madawaska, ME), northwest (Blaine, WA), southeast (Key West, FL) and southwest (San Ysidro, CA) in the continental U.S.  The challenge of the event is to complete a visit to all four corners of the U.S. on a motorcycle within 21 days, regardless of inclement weather, need for mechanical repairs, sleeping, dining, or any other issue which may arise.  Bob, a proud member of the Iron Butt Association, has done this tour before.  In fact, he has ridden his motorcycle more than 400,000 miles and hopes to make it to one million.  He even rode his bike from Texas to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle.  He and his friend were taking the obligatory photos in the park before they took off for their last corner, Key West.

In Sainte Basile, New Brunswick, just across the border from Madawaska, Maine, we stopped at a local cemetery to-- yes, to look for a letterbox.  The box is located at the foundation of a chapel in the corner of this cemetery which dates back to the eighteenth century.  When we arrived, two local brothers and their friend were busily caulking and repairing the little chapel.
Because stealth is one of the cornerstones of letterboxing conventions, we were not able to search for the box. However, we did enjoy a conversation and visit with the brothers, who had built the chapel themselves and whose English speaking skills were much better than our French.  They have many ancestors and relatives in the cemetery, and this is a labor of love for them.  A few years ago, their extended family held a reunion in Sainte Basile and celebrated mass in the little chapel.  We also learned from them that the people on the Canadian side of the Republic of Madawaska do not consider themselves Acadians but Brayon since they have ancestors from both Acadia and Quebec. 

A very interesting day and we made it to Quebec City around 6 p.m.

Daily Stats
Miles driven:  294
High temp:  67 ° F
Letterboxes:  5 (+ 1 hitchhiker)
Cheap gas:  $2.999/gallon! (in Maine)
Dead moose:  1 (victim of encounter with truck)
Long distance motorcyclists:  3
Rusty farm implements:  763
Time zone:  Eastern