When you are driving along the Trans Canadian Highway in New Brunswick, two things strike you. The first is the natural beauty of the landscape with its rocky outcroppings and dense pine forests. The second thing is the noggin befuddling road signs.
New Brunswick’s Natural Beauty
New Brunswick is all about experiencing nature in its most pristine state. The province is one of the three Canadian Maritimes, which also include Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The southern part of New Brunswick, which we visited, is bounded by the Bay of Fundy (with a rise of 52 ft, it has one of the highest tides in the world). Our pre-vacation research indicated that The Fundy National Park was one of the must-see attractions of the province. So, despite the fact that it was foggy and drizzling the day of our visit, we were determined to push on regardless. We selected the Matthews Head Trail because it is considered to be a moderately difficult hike and was purported to offer stunning views of the coast. The trail descended a steep path through the misty, verdant Acadian forest carpeted with beautiful emerald ferns and moss.
Unfortunately, when we reached the coastline, the fog was so thick that the view of the Bay of Fundy was completely obscured. Nevertheless, the dramatic craggy cliffs were quite awe inspiring. And though we were disappointed to be denied the promised vistas over the water, the fog created a unique and wonderful feeling of being entirely cocooned and secluded in our misty communion with the woods.
In the interest of complete disclosure, I have to confess that the trek back up the trail was extremely taxing and being the drama queen that I am, I did sit down at one point and suggested that my husband just leave me there.
However, when we finally made it back to the car I and I had an opportunity rest my poor knees, I experienced the pride of reaching the summit of my own tiny Everest. And, more importantly, I was happy that we had taken the opportunity to experience first hand, New Brunswick’s natural beauty.
New Brunswick’s Noggin Befuddling Road Signs
While I appreciated the province’s landscape, navigating it was problematic, not just because the terrain is challenging but also because their road signs confused me. New Brunswick is bilingual and in attempt to communicate succinctly to both English and French speakers, they have adopted an elaborate pictorial vocabulary for their sign posts. As Americans, we are used to seeing certain pictograms on signs indicating what amenities, such as gas, food, and lodging can be found at a particular exit off the highway. These symbols are pretty straightforward and easy to decipher–a fuel pump for gas stations, utensils for restaurants, and a bed for hotels. However, as we cruised down the relatively traffic-free roadways in New Brunswick, we were so puzzled by some of the signage that it felt like we were playing and losing some strange game of road trip Pictionary or whacko Hūsker Dū.
This curly-cue was one of the first symbols on an exit sign we encountered that perplexed us. What could it mean? You are entering a swirling vortex? Dr. Suessian plant life here? Who knows? Determined to figure it out, I immediately googled Canadian road signs and every other permutation of this query I could think of. We couldn’t find a single official site that explained the meaning of this enigmatic pictograph.
As we continued to travel the highway, we encountered additional signs that were equally mystifying. We started to collect them and come up with our own explanations of what they represented. This sign clearly depicts a barn but instead of animals, it is filled will people–curious. Were they having barn dances? We hadn’t gotten our Dosey Doe on since Jr. High but we were game.
I posited that this sign was warning us about angry pregnant beavers. My husband thought perhaps it was pointing the way to an impressive dam you could tour, you know, like Hoover Dam.
This one really stumped us. Was this alerting us that instead of a rest room, a chamber pot would be provided at this particular exit? Or was it a reference to the musical “Oliver,” where Oliver Twist lifts his bowl up and asks, “please sir, may I have some more?” Perhaps they were offering gruel to wayward travelers.
When we saw this sign we joked that it indicated that if you exited the highway here, you would dream of egg cups or maybe, they were saying, we have rooms for rent over our hen house.
We were really excited when we saw this sign, as the only meaning we could come up with was that they would be so thrilled by our visit, that the mayor would offer us the key to the city in some lavish ceremony.
This one was so confounding that, even though we were totally into our hilarious road sign guessing game, we couldn’t come up with even a single idea for this mind bending rune.
I would love to hear your interpretation of this and any of the other signs we encountered.
If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in another post about our trip to New Brunswick:
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