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The Cadillac of Road Trips

May 3rd, 2011


The controlled-access Trans Canada Highway through New Brunswick is 515 kilometres long. It’s easy to know where you are along the divided highway because there are kilometre markers along the whole route. Closing in on the ‘0’ marker means you are closing in on Quebec. The closer to the ‘515’ marker the closer to Nova Scotia.

With the completion of this highway I’ve often thought if someone is in a hurry, crossing ‘The Picture Province’ could be nothing more than a cruise-controlled, count-down (or count-up) of those numbers.

Is it safer and faster? No question.

What about New Brunswick though? Is the answer to let the kids watch videos on the entertainment system while we listen to an XM Radio station based in Washington or Los Angeles and have no contact whatsoever with good old New Brunswick?

On a recent drive from Montreal to Halifax, I overnight in Edmundston, a few kilometres south of the Quebec / New Brunswick border. In the morning, I realized the drive through New Brunswick could be accomplished without stopping. I had enough fuel and could sit tight for the four or five hours and become another of Tourism New Brunswick’s headaches.

But why not take an extra hour or two and check out a few iconic New Brunswick highlights located close to the Trans Canada Highway?

For starters, my wheels for the day begged something more than a cruise-controlled countdown through New Brunswick.

Manual transmission? Yep, a real 6-speed, clutch on the floor and all.

Great styling? Won rave reviews and a slew of awards in that department since introduced last year.

Big power? How about a 556-horsepower, Supercharged 6.2-litre V8. That’s the highest horsepower vehicle I have ever meandered down the highway in.

Fun to drive? This baby is a treat whether you are taking it to the grocery store or toying with the seemingly endless torque and horsepower that’s a thrill at any speed.

Yes, Cadillac’s CTS-V Coupe is a car just about anyone would want to partner with on a road trip, so I make a plan that will not add much time to my schedule.

I’ll stick to the Trans Canada most of the time but take in five New Brunswick attractions located within 10 kilometres of the highway. That means stops at ‘The Rocks’ in Hopewell Cape, Fundy Park and Saint John’s Reversing Falls are off the list. Kings Landing Historical Settlement, where the creaking of horse-drawn carts and the bustle of life in the 1800s is meticulously recreated, is only a stone’s throw from the highway, but closed for the season.

There is still plenty to choose from so the first stop is at Hartland for a drive through the longest covered bridge in the world. The 110-year-old wooden structure was originally a toll bridge until taken over by the provincial government in 1906. It’s almost a quarter-mile long. Hmmm. The CTS-V will accelerate to about 200 km/h in that distance. I decide not to give it a try but do blow the horn a few times as a matter of duty.

The next stop is the World’s Largest Axe in Nackawic, one of New Brunswick’s newest communities. Nackawic was developed to allow displaced people somewhere to settle when Mactaquac Dam was built in 1966 and the Saint John River Valley was flooded from Mactaquac to Southampton. The Axe is a symbol of the importance of the forest industry to New Brunswick. Sit a spell. Take it in. When else are you going to get a chance to ponder an axe as tall as a six-storey building?

Sticking to the near-deserted former Trans Canada Highway, Mactaquac Dam is about 20 minutes south. Along the way I rationalize reasons to pull over and make notes, call home or to fuss over pictures realizing they are only excuses to blast the CTS up to road speed again.

“Time to get to the speed limit again, Garry?” No sweat. Squeeze it down in first, quick shift to second gear and there’s 100 km/h in all of about 4 seconds.

Mactaquac is an embankment dam with 6 turbines that generates 653 megawatts, 20% of New Brunswick’s electricity. There is a road over the top of it that begs to be driven so I do it in both directions, with the windows down of course.

No drive through New Brunswick is complete without a stop at Magnetic Hill near Moncton where cars seem to coast uphill. I have done ‘the Hill’ a hundred times but still get a kick out of it every time.

Fort Beausejour in Aulac a few kilometres from the Nova Scotia border is my last stop. Even though it’s closed, a few minutes checking out the views of the Tantramar Marshes and the Bay of Fundy from the parking lot are well worth the diversion.

I pull the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe back onto the highway and motor into Nova Scotia. It will be a straight shot home but the extra hour and a half it took me to drive through New Brunswick gives me lots to smile about.

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