Québéc, New Brunswick, Maine - Montréal To Québéc City
Leaving Montréal was a slight clusterfart, mainly as the management of my hostel decided without warning to swap out all of the carpets in the rooms. This meant that all of the beds had to be disassembled and stuffed into the bathrooms while everyone's gear was in turn to be stuffed into closets. My day's simple plan was to buy a bag for the handlebars of my bike and hit the road - until this frantic wrinkle jammed into my spokes. Still, scurrying over bed parts in bathrooms and rummaging through wreckage, I persevered heroically. Finally ready to roll around 11a.m., I tanked myself on three cups of coffee earned through such adversity. For me this was like 10 shots of tequila: SHA-ZAM! Eyes... wide... open.
My first bit of cycle touring - getting out of Montréal - immediately became my first change in plans, too. I soon had come to realize that the north bank (Nord-Rive) of the St. Lawrence would be better since it had a bike trail. Thus I would blow off crossing the big Pont Jacques Cartier (bridge) and instead make my way through Montréal's industrial heart - or port as the case was.
This went well, although the amount of dust and gravel blasted onto the bike lanes was considerable. Sidewalks soon seemed a better option at times, so I took advantage of them here and there. Later on, that would prove to be an occasional strategy in other towns when necessary (i.e. life-saving, smart).
2+ hours into my grand tour, I more or less cleared Montréal, continuing along the north river bank on Hwy 138. For the most part, the shoulder was ample and the traffic alongside was considerate. A good start. This was perhaps the most-utilized bike route in Canada, after all.
Beyond the outskirts, most of the buildings lining the road were residences, generally one deep to each side of the road. It made sense to take advantage of the river views more than anything else, of course. Behind them, depending on the side of the road, was either the river or a farmer's field.
I soon noticed that there was no shortage of country manor-looking places, each stately in brick or stone. Plus virtually every small town had its own eglise (church), always a bit out-of-scale for these puny towns considering their size. Obviously the Quebecois of years past had left little chance for hell, opting instead to pay heavily for heaven.
The spires were, almost without exception, impressive. Almost always they were metallic, or at least of silver color. In fact, many of the roofs in the area were of metal, period. If anything, people here were apparently longer-term thinking. And with the amount of snow they received annually, it made sense, too. There wasn't exactly a shortage of signage for snowmobile crossings over the highway to advertise that fact, either.
Day 1 of the Great (Lesser?) Québéc-New Brunswick-Maine Cycle Tour proceeded clinically well, hugging my new best-est friend Hwy 138. Not that I didn't have to ask for directions a couple of times, though, like when trying to figure out how to take the ferry to get to the south side of the Seaway. A first guy, at a "fry shack" along the river, gave crappy directions about a boat in Lanoraie. Wrongo - this turned out to not exist.
A next attempt went better, when a guy in Lanoraie subsequently gave me directions to head on further to Les Iles (islands) Berthiers, then on to St. Ignace where the ferry was. It didn't go that smoothly in the conversation, actually: I was now chest deep into Quebecois 101 - French Québéc-style - where repetition was key! But I got the drift and, always helping matters, all one had to do was more or less stay near the river. That was what I was going to cross, anyway.
Hah - not so simple, although fortunately all still went well. The Berthier Islands ended up being something confusing on the way to getting very lost, but another emphatic Quebecois course received (Quebecois 102?) gave me enough information. This third guide to the ferry also suggested, using appropriate indications accompanied by hand signals, that I ride really hard to make it. Given that he was twenty-ish and looked like a lumberjack, I wasn't sure if he was referring to me specifically or anyone in general.
It wasn't like I was really going to fly anyway, not on a bike loaded to the gills with crap. (Actually, the crap was slowly getting organized in my head. The first packing in Montréal would soon be readjusted.) Cut any which way, I'd at best be a tanquer (tanker) incapable of ever rising to high speeds in a hurry. I couldn't outrun a rainstorm, for instance.
I couldn't; I didn't. The last twenty minutes I spent trying to catch the ferry were a wet mess, but fortunately the wetness stopped not long after it had begun. At least I wasn't stopped dead by a lightning bolt - which seemed a distinct possibility at the time. Mercifully, when I arrived at the ferry I found I had made it there in time to catch one in ten minutes. What timing! All per the plan, OF COURSE.
Happy to be successfully completing my first logistics puzzle, the St. Ignace ferry dumped me over into Sorel after a balmy fifteen minutes. From there it was another 8km or so to my campground, all well-marked. The first campground of the trip - yay!
I suppose I could remark about the campground, but really, what was there to say? Unremarkable. A buncha RVs only were in attendance, and it looked THOSE people had set up for the summer. I was the lone idiot with a tent, although I was assured that others had passed through recently on bicycles(for my part I hadn't seen another bike tourer all day.) Whatever - shower, trumpet, reading, feasting... and really not that many mosquitos, surprisingly. Such was camp - joy.
Day 2 was to be more ambituious, although I'd be guessing on the fly what distance I was really going to cover. My map wasn't all that great, I found. Thus I couldn't be surprised when it would end up being an 85 km day almost all of it through farmland. Certainly this southern side of the river was much more tranquil than the Nord-Rive, as advertised, but the physical aspects of the road turned out to be a bit more of a challenge.
For the most part, there was no paved shoulder. This was particularly fun, since there was a bit of a drop-off down to the gravelly shoulder sometimes. A couple of times I felt that the smarter move was to move along down there when a truck came a little to close for comfort. In about 100% of the world that's called a survival instinct. Nevertheless, most drivers on the lightly-trafficked road were poli et courteois (polite and courteous.)
Farm, town, farm, farm, farm, town. River, bridge. Bridge, river. Not exciting, but certainly pleasant. This day was mostly an inland route, realigning with the river only to camp by day's end. Towns were handy places to get water, including from a lady gracious enough to let me into her house. Welcome to Canada - where fear had been placed on the back burner (where it belonged.)
From Sorel I mosied on to Becancour, where a friendly girl at the Info (Welcome/Tourist) building let me take my bike inside and do a little internet. A handy circumstance, it was also done in sight of the impressive bridge to Trois Rivieres (on the north bank of the river again, where I wasn't yet headed but actually still avoiding.) Nice backdrop. It was in the sanctity of this building that I'd make the spot decision to push on for another 50 km the next day. I'd take a day off in Deschaillons right on the river after that: can't forget the rest days!
How would I spend that idle day?, I thought ahead. I'd have all day to think about THAT. One gets a lot of thinking done on the road, ya know. Plus you get to sing the same song to yourself for five hours straight. Mostly what helped, though, was when the road was flat, the weather was warm, and the winds were behind you!
In the meantime, who woulda thought an information center would be so hospitable? Une jolie fille (pretty girl - aren't I improving your French immeasurably?), a long conversation in French, a shelter from the storm... where was the wine?, I asked myself. Meanwhile the ôrage (storm) outside was magnified and beautifully displayed through large glass walls. With lightning flashes galore, it a treat to watch - so what if the power cut out a few times in "doing" the internet? I was watching a storm (!), a rare thing back in Seattle. Indeed, enjoying the fury of storms once again after so many boring and stormless Seattle summers would be a pleasantly recurring theme on this trip.
Finishing up at the info center, I departed merrily with the firm knowledge that my next campground was closeby. But wouldn't you know it, the storm I thought over had one last story to tell. All over me, in fact. Yes, I could ride fast. And then I could ride faster still. But in the end it was another wet entry to a lonely campground housing a scattering of RVs that awaited.
De nouveau (once more) I was the sole tent. This time pity was in the offing, and I was offered the "games building" as a refuge. Too bad this was right after I had set up my tent (already wet from collecting rain), but who was I to refuse? I hurriedly unstaked my port-a-home and picked up the billowing thing to shove it through the building's door.
It's like a kid camping in a living room, I thought... although this "living room" was in reality a kind of throwback hall. It had that feel that many a fun day had come to pass there - all long ago. Old parlor games and tables lined the walls, derelict in appearance.
Paramount to me, however, was that I had found dry refuge. Better still, it had a clean, comfy, and plush recliner which would serve to help lighten my load by one book (The Beans of Egypt, Maine - rather sordid). Good night, I whispered to myself.
I'd be on to Deschaillons the following day, with one question in my mind. Would there be another "real" (cyclist) camper there, finally, or would I stay on this lonely path? Meanwhile, making a small trick of things, it'd turn out that route 132 would not go gently through Becancour proper. I soon found a number of bike trail signs, but there wasn't a convincing rhyme to them.
This is a way of stating that I got a wee lost. Uh, nice farms! And... nice farms, again! Kinda familiar-lookin'! They called these trails officially the Circuites Decouvertes (discovery circuits), but all I discovered - circuitously - was that I didn't know how to get out of them and past Becancour.
Eventually Rte 132 joined with hwy 20 in this area, a hopefully prospect, even if the highways expressly forbade cyclists from joining in on their fun. Not like I was tempted. Fortunately, a lady at a gas station finally gave me directions toward a little-used road back again toward the river.
This sounded hopeful and un-lost: I LIKED following the river, yes I did! Saved! Yes, yes! - Let the river should be your guide, grasshopper, I mantra-ed! Thus I regained hope for a spell. But... I didn't see the river. Me of little faith. Not that I didn't have belief that it was actually there - the road had otherwise behaved as she had predicted - but...
Weird. That's what it was. Traveling this forlorn road into what could only be obscurity or oblivion, I soon rounded an indicated curve to behold an empty, massive four-lane highway. I was taken aback: it was straight as an arrow, lumbering off into the distance, with no end in sight. Welcome to Industrial Park, Canada - damn, them's some huge buildings! What an odd place, I thought, perceiving perhaps the largest building in the world. I couldn't discern what it was for, of course.
Appearing a kilometer long, this structure easily rivalled what I knew to be officially the largest building by volume in the world. Being from Seattle, I had no choice but to know that THAT was the Boeing aircraft plant north of Seattle in Everett. It was stated in multiple tourist publications, but I'd only seen the place. This LOOKED bigger.
Other similar buildings of herculean scope imposed themselves on the road, too. Yet for all this industrial might on display, only a pair of pickup trucks moving at high speed in the other direction showed any signs of life. They proferred wide-eyed stares my way, quickly disappearing in a visual doppler effect.
Baffled by this industrial Mars, I could only wend my way in the straightest of manners. I was just a rusty plow on a mission in a rock field... call the metaphor police, quick! Anyway... down the road I flew, expecting tumbleweed to cross my path, or at least a sound to greet me. Neither came to my aid.
When the road finally dead-ended into yet another massive factory, still without sight of the river, I questioned the directions I had received. I was loathe to retreat, yet I was worried that I might have to undo some of my course to retake my route. What I wanted more anything else were new directions. Where WAS anyone?
Scanning the big factory in front of me over a number of minutes, however, I finally saw precisely one human in motion. A woman was making a beeline between two exterior doors and under the looming presence of the factory's massive walls. Still, she was out in the open - all mine! Was this opportunity knocking? Would I have a savior? More importantly, could I actually hail her down?
I certainly wouldn't let her make it out of my sight before trying my utmost to accost her for directions, that much I was sure of. Not even with the fence topped with barbed wire in my way - NO! I had a desperate kind of focus, so with my frantic yelling it perhaps shouldn't have been a mystery that I managed to get her attention.
Surprised to see a cyclist hailing her down on this Martian landscape, she approached me cautiously before ascertaining that I must be harmless - if only a bit stupid, perhaps. I gloried in my good fortune as she studied my map through the fence, then motioned me further down the new road I had intersected.
No backtracking!, that's all I could think. She next triumphantly indicated a turn gauche (left) at a lumiere (light) down a ways. Then... "Voila!" - I would be on my way. Were that it went exactly like that... mais... pas vrai (but...not true). Or not exactly.
This light turned out to be ol' Route-132/Hwy-20 again, which I kinda suspected. And I knew better than to play that cyclists-prohibited game. I didn't need a ticket, nor did I need to become roadkill. Using dead reckoning instead, I guessed that if I continued on I would eventually see a frontage road on the other side - and I soon did.
I patted myself on the back as soon as I found it paralleling the big highway. Next, after a further number of kilometers down the road, I would be miraculously bestowed with a bicycle sign, too. It stated "Gentilly" (and thus Deschaillons beyond), ending any remaining mystery.
What an exasperating experience, merely passing Becancour by. And my reward? Only some cows were there to celibrate - or commiserate - with. Not exactly the kind of folk to share a beer with, but I'd milk the moment. (SORRY!) Back on track finally, I had only to remind myself: It was a sunny day! I was on my bike! I wasn't lost anymore!
From there it was easy going. Gentilly came and went, and I encountered my first gently rolling hills. Eventually I came to be rolling along a bluff overlooking the mighty St. Laurent as I approached Deschaillons. Then, wouldn't you know it, I'd make it a 3-for-3 in arriving to my campgrounds as rain hit in a fury.
I thus came to a sheltered halt in a small town just some kilometers away from my destination. Drats. A friendly woman I queried for directions offered her house as a respite from the storm, but I politely declined. Instead I opted for phone calls in a glass booth instead. Why? Because. Just because.
This detour had an appealing touch, being directly opposite a magnificent church that must've been hundreds of years old and overlooking the river. From my glass-shrouded redoubt I watched the storm's mayhem in some amount of peace while chatting with my sister. Although the booth felt like it might blow away at times, what with its impressive rattling and heaving, such excitement was not to be in store for me. I had a room with a view!
So rain again introduced me to my campground, and again I had the sole tent. But this time it's going to be different!, I told myself. For starters, I would have the consolation that I was directly on the river for the first time. Plus, I was at enough distance from the main road to not hear it. Best of all... there was a hot tub!
This got me excited right away. Who'da thought? THAT joy would only last a short while however, bubbling up like the waters themselves only until I had stripped covertly to my undies to jump in and found it... cold. EGADS! Here it was, running its jets full blast, the cover was off, seemingly open for business... and it was COLD? Was this a Canadian thing?!? Didn't they like hot tubs?!? Argggh! (It didn't occur to me that this was still the off-season.)
This disappointment only led to another one. A gazebo right on the water had promised hope to me upon arrival, too - THERE was a place where I envisioned great works of trumpet transcription transpiring on my glorious day off from cycling. But that was not to be, either. The wind howled right through the screening as if nothing was there, turning my fingers number within minutes... and good luck keeping the papers on the table with the breeze!
Similarly, none of the campsites had any protection from the elements in the first place. Trees, anybody? What was WITH these roadside campgrounds?!? I was beginning to question my quest, what with these examples for lodging. Sigh. Initial disappointments aside, however, I WOULD be taking a day off the bike. That much I had settled - I need to settle something, at least! I had paid for two nights already and was decided: I wasn't in the mood to change my stubborn mind.
In retrospect, I suppose I really SHOULD have thought it through a bit more. I wasn't that tired after only three days of riding, after all. And Deschaillons turned out to be the only town on the river without a picturesque park, majestic church, or soul of any kind for that matter. Even the lighthouse grandly displayed in brochures proved to be a tiny and forsaken edifice, only redeemed somewhat by its adjoining view. Its bathroom complete with water faucet - always of interest to the traveller - would be considered "reaching" at any stretch of the imagination.
And a library in town - where I had grand plans of faithfully entering some words into this journal of sorts? Nope - it only had a schedule of opening that consisted of two two-hour blocks for the week. Huh? In fact, if it wasn't for the sporadic, infrequent appearance of someone momentarily on the sidewalk, one would have thought the place was completely deserted. But... I made my mind to stay, so stay I would. I was a Zorax, you see. Or was that a Sneetch?
Then... surprise! Later in the evening I returned and found another tent set up: I wasn't alone! It was a car camper, sure, but with a bike strapped on back. This was hopeful! Then again, however, as I turned a wary eye and gave an unreturned wave... maybe not. I watched as this single tenter, a man, became a whirlwind of motion in first frantically gathered logs and then burning them furiously. But his was a solitary mission. Sigh.
Next he proceeded to ride his bike around the campground in a tight-fitting outfit of a t-shirt and shorts, doing some form of calesthetics at 100mph (or 160kph, if you wish). Alrighty... wasn't it a bit cold in this wind-blasted darkness for that? Hmmm... whatta wackadoo, I thought. The allure of this other cyclist's company faded quickly. Still, figuring I should at least try, I told myself that the next day I'd reestablish an attempt at contact.
Woe, alas, alack - come morning he was gone. By 6 a.m., apparently. Actually, this felt like a relief - although it was surely my loss, of course. Somehow I knew I'd nevertheless survive this fantastic missed opportunity, though. Damned straight - I went on to nap gloriously through most of the day. Zzzz.
Later, not wanting to call this séjour (stay) an entire loss, I wandered around town with my trumpet in hand. I was ready for anything. Like... what? The wind still howled. That quickly put the kebosh on everything - I didn't function well in wind, however much sun there was to help as accompaniment. I finally admitted a rousing defeat of sorts, courtesy of Deschaillons.
At least I could compensate by boldly relaxing, eating, and watching the boats move down the river, no? Yes - I found a new mission! Reinvigorated, I fixed a hearty salmon sandwich on pita bread, attempting to newly contemplate this day off. Now this was the life! Ahhh. Yet... others were contemplating my delectible sandwich in the meantime, too.
It was in my ill-fated reverie that I was in short order strafed by a bird, receiving a small serving of shit on my back. An open promise of more came next, as the bird circled to reconsider its options. Turning to scowl at the miscreant, a dragonfly next landed on my sandwich and looked to make himself at home. What was going on?
At least this johnny-come-lately I could deal with: I grabbed him by the wings and tossed him into the wind. I seriously reconconsidered the choice I had been making, stopping as I did here for the day. As my sister repeatly instructed my now six-year-old nephew Ryan - choices did indeed have CONSEQUENCES. I'd have to determine the meaning of this and think my folly through.
By now I'd spent some days riding - I thought I had the feel for the game. Didn't I? For example, scavenging had turned into an interesting aspect of riding, I had noted. You never knew what you'd find, and I even had had my eyes open for some abandonned (read: fallen, failed) stuff. At one point I had need of a bungy cord and sure enough I found a spare strap in short time. See? Choices. (Don't stop me - I'm on a roll.)
I needed pliers, too, and here again I found an extremely coincidental occurence when voila! - there they were lying plainly in front of me on the road. Mine, all mine. When I wanted a little company, too? A tiny stuffed bird would be found to become a mascot (albeit a filthy one to hang from my bike and nowhere near my person.) Two paper Québéc flags would be washed in a puddle and stored for further contemplation, too. The road really DID provide! My spirits lifted.
I contemplated road bounty further. A shattered box of a girl's toys proved interesting once - although the devoted reader would be happy to know that I no more had interest in acquiring them than I did in playing with them. Let me clarify that - not interested, thank you very much. A dismembered Barbie, a likewise quartered horse, their frilly outfits, and then, finally, the flimsy cardboard box they came in was found plastered up against some cornstalks past a road shoulder. There had been something sad about seeing them displayed in this strewn manner, but hopefully there wasn't some little girl out there rueing their disappearance. Hey, this wasn't doing my spirits any good - my smile was turning upside down!
Road shoulders - those were proving another story. Hwy 132, which I had been assiduously following, was supposedly bike-friendly, though obviously not to the extent of the more popular Montréal-Québéc route Hwy 138. Generous (paved) shoulders had only existed consistently from Sorel to Yamaska on the south side of the St. Laurent. For the rest of this southern stretch I would ride the white line to the road's right, almost always with a wide swath of gravel just a foot beyond it to the road's edge.
Still, drivers were generally nice about accomodating me, and traffic was fortunately light. Not that there was any mistaking the infrequent passing car which came a little closer than necessary, swerving hard to the right immediately after passing to just... let... me... know. Okay, those could be bastards, but at least they were few and far between.
A few times I heard a car converging even a little more closely to me as they approached, an unnerving action: off I went into the black gravel yonder. This was for the most part manageable. It was indeed on account of these experiences that I congratulated myself on taking an old mountain bike with hybrid road tires. In a similar vein, signs begging cars to share the road with cyclists were accordingly amusing.
Campgrounds, really RV parkgrounds more than anything else, now those were another show altogether. After my initial experiences, I truly hoped that this would change for the better down the road. Perhaps this come when I came to the more park-focussed stretch of the campaign, I hoped. The Montréal-Québéc (City) stretch didn't feel inviting in the meantime.
RVers were another breed altogether. I couldn't exactly figure them out, or the appeal. I'd watch them mow the grass around their vehicles, completely anchored in for the long haul. Others sat around drinking wine to start the morning - perhaps to congratulate themselves on the mowing. They were on holiday, damnit.
It struck me that at times the RVers were making conspicuous attempts at showing they were doing nothing. Or was I just that different and uncomprehending? The number of electric carts tellyingly struck me as odd - were 50% of the people in RVs cripples? Or were they just that lazy to not walk 50 meters to the bathroom? Whatever the answers and deeper reasonings were, I didn't find it too appealing to get to the bottom of things.
Considering the metrics of my trip was turning out to be a slightly problematic thing, too. Speed and distance were guesses, what with my speedometer and odometer not working since I put the bike back together. On the other hand, the apparatus still quite fortunately defaulted to a clock. I knew what time it was even if I had no clue how far I had gone or had to go.
I otherwise didn't have a clock since my iPod no longer was willing to communicate with computers. It still charged and played though, resulting in a permanent trumpet set list I could listen to. That the AM and PM readings were switched on my remaining clock was something I would just have to struggle through. One insane stomach episode in Ecuador excepted (where I didn't know night from day), I figured I could probably manage that.
Distances between towns were a guess, especially with signs apparently kept to a minimum in Québéc. One learned of the exact distance to the next town chiefly only when passing through the center of the previous one. Otherwise, usually somewhere in the middle of a farm field, I'd get an announcement (sign) that I'd just changed cities. This would have to make do unless I learned to read the sun, the wind, and the stars - or something.
Because of this curiousity in announcing towns in the middle of nowhere, I soon concluded that municipalities extended themselves up until the next municipality. Thus there weren't unincorporated areas but unbuilt city instead. Nevertheless, with farms and fields so taken into account, one was left without a clue where the outlying built areas of a town began until they were hit.
That was the case except for one thing: churches. These structures seemed to exist about one to a town, all seemingly of the Catholic variety. These gothic beasts far outsized their possible attendance base, but they invariably served as inescapable landmarks - each spearing the sky with their silver spikes. Thus, when i saw that silver spire in the distance, I could visually judge how long it would be before I'd actually find myself in its shadow. That worked well enough - it wasn't like I had another choice.
People I stopped and spoke with were generally very friendly. From the woman who offered me shelter in her house, to the one who let me inside to get water, to the variety who spouted out what was effectively only enthusiastic gibberish for directions - nice was the word. Nevertheless, the Quebecois (the French language was thus called in Québéc due to its dialectic differences) outside of a city's embrace were basically unintelligible if the person uttering forth was of - and particularly only of - the countryside. Fortunately these country folk always understood ME well enough. The onus then transferred to me to best remember their sequence of hand gestures and emphases to understand them.
Contemplations of life on the cycled road aside, my day off in Deschaillons played itself out. After this self-imposed rest, the following day I would try a big roll to the outskirts of Québéc (City), cycling perhaps 90 km after the mere 50km to achieve Deschaillons. I was ready for the big town.
But not so fast - first I'd meet a second set of tent people. Hooray - a couple had shown up in the middle of the night in an antiquated VW camper bus. I finally found some good company as they'd prove to be more of my ilk. Plus, they offered crepes with fruit for breakfast, and coffee, too! Sold!
They were the real deal, all right. TRAVELERS! They had biked across Tibet and Nepal, fer chrissakes. The man, Eric, had even written a book about it to boot. It wasn't like I needed to add to my book pile on the bike, but I decided to not pass up an opportunity to put a face to words in an adventure tale (Spokes In Dust, Eric Heide - an unknowing plug at this point): I bought the book.
Eric and Kat were good eggs, and soon we had a nice conversation about adventure travel, bike travel, and writing about it. I'd have to debate his ultimate decision to write in the present tense for immediacy and effect, but I'd have his book to serve as an example in the days to come. Coincidentally, they were headed my way - perhaps we'd meet again further in Québéc City.
But I had to get there first. I was now an old hand at the big roll, so I was soon ready to gamely plow forward shortly after bidding my new friends adieu. Hell, I still was travelling on chiefly flat terrain - no room to complain!
In St. Nicolas, close to Québéc (City), things got a bit confusing, however. Traffic had picked up measurably, and I could see that I'd have to muck about to get around the massive Pont du Québéc (bridge) to find my camping in the suburban hell. My newfound luck would hold, however: a friendly guy riding in the other direction stopped and lent a hand with directions, even riding back to me three times more to further clarify. Like I said, nice folks - as if all of the unlocked front doors I had been noticing didn't already make the case.
At the bridge itself, I apparently had overshot my campground's mark. Sure enough, though, a red-headed guy was loping by - literally, in some weird jog-walk-hop stride I'd never encountered before - to help. French and English bounced around, but I soon was on my way to the KOA Québéc campground to get my rest. I could now taste the city, even if I wasn't a part of it yet.
Being Friday, a flurry of phone calls now ensued to get some reservations the next day for the city I was so eager to enter. I quickly was forced to realize, however, that with it being the 400th anniversary year of the city - and an airshow planned for the weekend - my timing wasn't necessarily the best to get accomodations.
Soon I got that set up with a hostel, though, and finally I settled to crash for the night. Then wouldn't you know it, and minutes after my arrival, the first other cycle tourists I would see rumbled in. They were on speed cyles dragging carts, opposites to my chosen style of travel, and had only left Montréal that morning. Impressive. Cocky bastards.
Actually that just described the old guy. He immediately dismissed me and my steed, an ancient Cannondale mountain bike that looked a little worse for the wear. That happened immediately upon his learning that I had not only taken the nontraditional route but had used more than a day. I was obviously of inferior material.
His younger buddy, in the meantime, took me with jovial aplomb. Unfortunately, though, he also seemed incapable of deeper conversation than "I like cherry bombs!" or "I like to ride fast!" or "Mountains are tough!" or "I love to ride outside." Not the most stimulating stuff, deeper cycling comradery would obviously stay on hold.
Come morning, the older guy came around a bit. I was offered coffee, eggs, and more as friendliness suddenly arose from nowhere. I took this at face value, however (free grub didn't hurt!), soon amiably chatted with them. Lord knows, the rest of the 200 campspots were filled with RVs, wine glasses at the ready at 9 a.m. (perhaps that was just the site next to me - still...) This were my sole cycling compatriots.
Post breakfast the older cyclist turned manic, soon amusing to watch in moving through his apparent routine. His morning regime seemed to be to perfunctorily read about 2 pages of a book, down his food in a gulp, pound down precisely two cups of coffee, throw a frisbee about three times, then make ready to roll. These guys were all business. Or he was. Meanwhile, the younger guy watched his mentor's every step, hastening his readiness accordingly. Then they were off. Cyclists of my ilk to chum around with would have to await another day.
No, I'dd not be zipping on to the Gaspesie (Peninsula, ahead down the St. Laurent) like those guys just yet, either. I still couldn't enter Québéc (City) even, although I was knocking on the gates. Instead I'd roll my way there through the pleasant suburbs of Levis, on both Québéc and the St. Laurent's south side. With my hostel bed a night away still in town, I was following the big river beyond Québéc to camp for yet more night.
This time it was to be near an old fort. There I was to have the pleasure of killing time in graying skies with cutting windblasts on an exposed hillside. Very, very fun - I was able to notice every forsaken minute of the entire day. When rain began to pour that evening, not letting up by morning, my patience neared its end. My tent soon started to fill with water - my site had no DRAINAGE! It was indeed time to park the bike for a while - I wanted to get my arse inside a building with beds.
In the morning I was ready to start my attack on Québéc (City), literally hell or high water since I had both in hand. It took only some 5-10 km to backtrack to the Levis ferry from the fort, albeit in a morning with steady rain and no breakfast. Efficiency came naturally now as I was determined - Québéc (City), here I come ready or not!
The ferry ride from Levis into the city was short and to the point; quickly the city loomed on the cliffs above and before me. I finally arrived now, successfully finishing the only stage of the trip I had planned in any sense. What the jolly people of Québéc wanted to do with a soggy, cycling trumpeter would be another story.
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