Published on September 02, 2013
Sam Ross of Digby Area Recreation took a ride through the New France area this summer with his sister Magi to check out the Tour de New France route. – Submitted
Published on September 02, 2013
Ian Nesbit at the Balancing Rock along the Tour de New France route. – Submitted
By Jonathan Riley
Cyclists in the Tour de New France bicycle challenge can look forward to dirt, mud and monster mud puddles.
Organizer Jeanne Nesbit says most of the 20-kilometre course is on decent logging roads, but there are at least a half dozen puddles - eight feet across and a foot deep – blocking the trail.
“In some places they may have to carry their bikes,” she said, barely hiding a smile. “There are some hills, but they’re not steep. But they’re not smooth either. There are some rocky spots.
“Let me put it this way,” she grins. “They won’t be anywhere near pavement.”
The cyclists can also look forward to seeing a wild corner of the backcountry with beautiful lakes and a rich history.
New France, about 20 kilometres back in the woods to the southeast of Weymouth, was the site of the Stehlin family settlement, known as Electric City, founded in the 1890s. They had electricity 30 years before the other communities in the area.
Today, nothing remains but the foundations of the buildings.
Irving used to own the land and had interpretive signage there; the parking lot, trails and footbridges from the company’s park are still evident.
Employees of Irving organized the Tour de New France from 2001 to 2003 as a fundraiser for the IWK Children’s hospital, with 74 cyclists in the last year. Heavy rainfall in early 2004 damaged the logging roads and several bridges. The damage, combined with the beginnings of the Irving withdrawal from southwest Nova Scotia, spelled the end for the Tour de New France.
The province recently set aside 86 hectares for a provincial park around the New France site and the Weymouth Waterfront Development wants to help promote the historical importance of the area. Nesbitt and other members of the commission are reviving the event as a way to bring exposure to the historical site, to fundraise for the commission and to host some fun.
“It will be a real fun experience for people,” says Nesbit. “It will be cool enough to really enjoy being in the woods: the leaves should have just started to turn and the route takes you through some beautiful country.”
At the checkpoint at Long Tusket Lake, for example, the road is right on the edge of the lake – in the past volunteers at this checkpoint actually set up their lawn chairs right in the lake to keep cool.
Catch the tour
The rally, scheduled for Sept. 28, will start and finish on an Irving road 18 kilometres southeast of Weymouth.
The route will follow a straight-as-an-arrow, graveled road for the first seven kilometres ,until it meets the New France Road – a logging road following Silver River northeast to Langford Lake and New France.
The fourth check point is at the old settlement where organizers will have a cash canteen. Volunteers will be on hand to explain some of the history of the site for riders who want to stop to explore.
The route continues north along the east side of Little Tusket Lake and then along the southern end of Long Tusket. Then it’s north around Colibri Lake. At Doyles Lake, the path turns southwest back towards the start and a cash barbecue. Along the way the riders will pass the other Balancing Rock, or Teeter Rock.
For added fun, the event is not a race, but a poker run: participants pick up cards at each of the five checkpoints and the best hand wins.
“No one has to worry about being the first or the fastest,” says Nesbit. “They can go slow and enjoy the day out there.”
Nesbit estimates it will take riders 90 minutes to reach the settlement and another 90 minutes back to the finish
Barry Faulkner, who organized the original Tour de New France and is helping with the new one, advises participants to stay hydrated.
“Be prepared for single track riding,” he said. “Take your time, look at everything there is to see and just get out there and enjoy it.”
What: Tour de New France poker run
When: 10 a.m., Sept. 28
Sign up: Digby recreation office or Sissiboo Landing, Weymouth, or at the race at 9 a.m.
Cost: $25 (Register by Sept. 6 to get a free T-shirt.)
Finding New France
To reach the start, take Hwy 340 out of Weymouth towards Southville and turn left onto the Langford Road. Drive 11 kilometres down the road to the intersection with Long Tusket Road, sometimes called the Balancing Rock Road.