In 1979, popular Fredericton blogger Charles LeBlanc became the first Acadian to bike from Acadia to Louisiana, and then some.
Love him or hate him, there is absolutely no denying the impact Charles LeBlanc has had on our city and our province. An activist, a blogger, and a self proclaimed “pain in the ass”, when LeBlanc sets his mind on something, he goes all in.
But long before he began his six month sit-in protest on the lawn of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, before he made international headlines after being tackled by Saint John City Police, before his blog grew in popularity to rival the online presence of some accredited media organizations, before he became a target for harassment by members of a police force that will remain unnamed, and long before he turned his attention to documenting Fredericton’s undeclared meth epidemic, Charles LeBlanc did a few other remarkable things. Without a camera. Without a blog. At one time, his preferred tool for adventure was a ten speed bike.
In 1976, at seventeen years of age, LeBlanc started getting curious about long distance cycling. That summer he packed a bag, oiled up his chain and logged 3500 km on highways and backroads throughout the Maritime Provinces. He had just finished his first year of high school and dedicated the summer to traveling solo because, as he put it, “I wanted to prove myself.”
The next year he went bigger. In 1977, Charles LeBlanc rode his bicycle from Vancourver to St. John’s. His journey would last 70 days during which time he would log more than 8500 km. He could have shaved roughly 800 km off his route but admitted to wanting to “go a little further.”
Speaking to reporter Kathy Routliffe of the Moncton Transcript in September of ‘77, LeBlanc listed all the major cities he rode through and the unusual places where he often spent the night. Along the trip LeBlanc usually pitched his tent in the backyards of hospitable supporters who would usually sweeten the deal by offering to make him breakfast in the morning. And on a few occasions he even spent the night in empty jail cells thanks to a few sympathetic RCMP constables.
In that same article, one of only a few that covered LeBlanc’s adventures for local readers, he explained how his father once gave him $400 dollars to spend on an annual school trip and how that gift fueled his new found passion. “I don’t like the thought of spending that in just a week,” said LeBlanc. “So I decided to do this. What better way to get to know your country?”
He does have a point.
In 1978, a nineteen year old LeBlanc fresh out of high school decided he would outdo both his previous bicycle adventures combined. This time he logged more than 13,500 km as he rode from Halifax to San Francisco, a seven month trip down the east coast to the bottom of Florida, back up through Texas with an extended jaunt through Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma before resuming a more direct route through New Mexico, Arizona and up the California coast.
Following his great adventure, LeBlanc gave up long distance cycling in favour of new pursuits. But he still pushed the pedals from time to time. Nearly 30 years after completing his longest ride, one which earned him the unique distinction of becoming the first Acadian to bike from Acadia to Louisiana, LeBlanc received a ticket from the City of Fredericton for allegedly riding his bicycle on a downtown sidewalk, an event that would garner more local media attention than all three of his bicycle adventures combined.
Thanks to Charles LeBlanc for sharing the photos used in this feature. See more on his blog.