The road traces the coast, but you cannot see the coast. Instead, endless trees stretch in every direction, a mix of dark pines and light birch. Road signs transition from English over French to French over English as Canadian flags become scarce—northern New Brunswick claims to be the heart of Acadian country. Whether or not it is the heart of Acadian country, it is certainly the epicenter of Acadian pride. Acadian flags cover the landscape; a French tricolor with a gold star set against the blue. They wave in front of virtually every immaculate white house, they are on vanity license plates, outdoor sculptures, phone poles. Their bright colors accent the hypergreen landscape of trees and close-cropped lawns, blues, reds, and whites fluttering with a pale orange tint in the afternoon light. The flags also send a message to the rest of Canada: Acadians are different. Many of them speak English but, like the Québécois, they actively resist assimilation into Anglophone culture. The British savagely deported Acadian settlers after wresting Canada from the French during the 18th century and, not surprisingly, themes of exodus remain at the core of Acadian cultural identity. In one small town, a single house bristles with Canadian flags, its grassy moat dividing it from a throng of Acadian neighbors. Nobody sits on the porch.
A group of Harley riders with strikingly normal waistlines lounges at a shaded wicker table outside the boulangerie in Caraquet. They sip coffee, eat pear tarts, and converse in French. Inside the boulangerie, someone with strongly accented English asks if Arizona is in South America. Most Arizonans would probably assume New Brunswick is in Europe and, if blindfolded and dropped off in the middle of Acadian country, they would doubtless be convinced of their assumption. The boulangerie closes, V-twins thud, roar, recede. Leaves rustle over the warm street.
It is difficult to comprehend that the pavement outside your front door connects, unbroken, to virtually every corner of North America, one gargantuan system of arteries and capillaries shuttling people and goods around like blood cells.
Two Acadian teenagers in a lowered Honda Civic back out of a parking lot and, deliberately popping their clutch, peel out with a screech. They wear sports jerseys, backwards hats, and wrap-around shades—poseur frat-boys blasting the theme from Smokey and the Bandit out of their shivering little car.
east-bound and down, loaded up and truckin'
The acrid smell of burning rubber fills the air. Elsewhere on the web of pavement, a tractor trailer slowly bumps a car in stop-and-go Los Angeles traffic and both drivers stand outside their vehicles to exchange information. In a quiet suburb of Tulsa, a middle-aged woman with an persistent summer cold walks out to her mailbox in slippers. In Seattle, an office drone curses as he drops a fresh chicken samosa in a puddle outside of his favorite Pakistani food cart. In Caraquet, smoke dissipates into the air as two rubber scars appear on Boulevard Saint Pierre Ouest. Millions of unrelated dramas simultaneously playing out the stage of asphalt.