Québéc, New Brunswick, Maine - Québéc City To Tadoussac

After one of my longest-ever hostel stays - a week in Québéc (City) - it felt time. Time to get a moooooove on. Not that there's ever a set pattern for this feeling - you just know. Most often, it's when a group you've gotten acquainted with has just shoved off. Suddenly, what had been a warm and inviting place can feel kind of empty and lonely.

With such a prospect, all that remains is the question of whether it'd be worth the trouble of making new acquaintances. Idly searching questions with new arrivals can be work, a bland but necessary task to find common worthwhile ground. Sometimes you have the energy for this, sometimes... not.

In Québéc I had seen something like two shifts (in reality it's rarely that discrete) pass through. For a week's time, that was fairly typical. Not too many people seemed to stay in one place for more than a few days any more. And here I had put in a week, almost the sole person in the large hostel with that distinction. The time frame wasn't egregious of itself - I had stayed once at a hostel in Rome for a month - but... no, I was off, too.

There were the usual goodbyes, of course. Some last minute flirting with the girl at the desk. I always managed to get some smiles and laughs from her, and she seemed to get a kick out of our conversations unless I deluded myself (always a possibility). I'd learned not to take such friendly banter as a given - some hostel workers were all business, a sometimes inevitable result of too much time spent in the service industry - but... really, it was time to go.

See-you-laters completed, I loaded up my bike to make my way out of the hostel. This was not a straightforward affair, no, but one consisting of meandering through a secret door that passed through a neighbor's back yard and a communal trash area. No red carpet for the wacky cyclist! Instead it felt more an ignominious retreat. Fittingly, the bike barely slid through the cans and dumpster, so I had the enjoyment of sniffing ripe garbage as I effectively squirted my tanker through them with a few deft shoves.

Ridingwise, I intended this to be an ambitious day. Yea - I had rested! But I didn't start out with any plans to surpass any previous tally of kilometers for a given day, either. Which I did, by at least 30 km in coursing through many significant hills and rain. But that's getting ahead of myself.

To begin the journey's new leg, exiting Québéc would prove far more trivial than Montréal. A dedicated bike path starting things quite admirably, going a ways north out of town. This was the complement of its even nicer stretch of some 10 km toward the south. That's where, only a couple of days previous, I had the pleasure of crossing the massive Pont du Québéc. Then I was only to be hailed on wretchedly for my audacity; things went much better this time around.

Easy to follow, the cycle path would officially terminate only a short ways beyond the outskirts of the city. How convenient. Making matters more pleasant, a Quebecois cyclist accompanied me for most of this, all the while giving me his lowdown on life as we pedalled along side by side. His advice: quit your job and cycle!

How novel! Hmmm... such good advice... maybe I had heard that before... oh yeah, that's what I always was telling others! Actually, he was truly tickled that I had already joined his ranks. Eventually, however, the city's confines gave way as did my companion. Now the way switched to become a quiet, shared car-bike route. That'd work, too, even as all the people disappeared almost completely.

Specifically, it was at Montmorency Falls that I bid my compatriot in cycling-as-lifestyle adieu. He had places to go and people to see; I had a big waterfall to gawk at. Now here was an impressive show of nature's force and beauty, steady gushes of water immediately reminiscent of Seattle's own (and equally stunning) Snoqualmie Falls. Right down to the hydro dam with the restaurant on top even. Perhaps that was just the proper way to frame the thing, I guessed.

Given such false familiarity, maybe this would be why I had no problem moving on after only passing a dozen minutes there to relax and take it in. Should I have had the desire, there was a network of catwalks and a cable car as well - accoutrements that Snoqualmie Falls lacked, it should be noted. I passed. In fact, after a week of lax hostel life, it would've taken a spectacularly unique cascade to move me enough to pause more than cursorily. I wanted to be in motion.

Leaving the falls behind, right away a route opened up that continued to parallel Hwy 138. This was Hwy 132's twin on the north side of the St-Laurent, Route 360. A cyclist's dream, this route rambled through town after town within a mere half-kilometer of Hwy 138, yet felt another world away. The (farm)houses were quaint without being insistently touristy, too, a minor miracle given that this "Route de Nouvelle France" was obviously a known tourist quantity. I easily gathered that, if only based on the informational signs regularly posted along the roads.

Rte 360 next hugged the base of a several-stories-tall bluff consistently, one littered with cove-shaped cavities scotched out of flagstone-ish walls. Each had its own trickling waterfall, making for an appealing succession of calm grottos. At the least it seemed like this geography must have been propitious in aiding the processing of maple syrup. The ubiquitous cottage industry for the area, in addition to some boutique wineries, was well in evidence here: I passed one after another. Charmed, I followed this dream sequence all the way to Beaupré, where both it and my heretofore flat route would abruptly terminate.

It wasn't like all of the sailing had been perfectly smooth, though. For example, I got my first opportunity to use a pair of recently-scavenged pliers (from the middle of the road). Those came in handy when I struggled to tear off a hard plastic sliver, one that had started to come undone at the base of one of my panniers. Until that maneuver it had sounded like a kid's bike with a card in the spokes (on steroids). Serendipitous... not!

My performing the caveman-level surgical task, that of grabbing it with the plier tips and yanking like hell, wouldn't be denied. Similarly, my main chain ring thumbshifter would soon require a bit of rough work, too. It was slowly becoming harder to shift into the big ring. I forecast this to be a problem down the road sure enough. (Spoiler alert!... STOP READING NOW! Yep.)

Making all of these difficulties ever so much more fun, too, a steady rain began to fall (albeit of light drops). Sigh. Then, after an half-hour of gathering wetness through every orifice in my clothing, half of my gear collapsed off of the bike while in motion. This happened when I crossed some rough railroad tracks. Fortunately, this occurred with no one around; unfortunately, I actually NEEDED someone around since this passed right at the culmination of my discovery that I was lost in Beaupré.

Great. The immediate problem of my gear's wreckage called for a readjusting of everything, admittedly overdue perhaps since Montréal. Okay... that was successfully accomplished as I got there... eventually. Indeed, maybe it was appropriate that this was also where I would lose my stuffed animal mascot (found in Levis) on the railroad tracks. It had been found on the road, now it was lost on the road (as I'd discover much later) - fair enough. This was probably fitting for someone who didn't believe in pets, anyway.

Meanwhile, my load reloaded, I next turned to a massive, and mysteriously shirtless, man leaning over his house's balcony nearby. Would he helpfully un-lose me? Yes, more or less. Grand! Not only that, but he'd provide the first evidence that the indecipherable Quebecois garble of only two weeks prior was becoming rather understandable. Good for me! Or not so good: now the hills began.

I had decided that, come Beaupré, I'd continue as long as possible with my backroads discovery tour. Why not? I'd already enjoyed the Québéc-Beaupré route so much. But now, with the (thankfully warm!) rain beginning to pick up, I probably shoulda also guessed I'd be doing some climbing, too. Duh. The next town had "Mont" in front of it (as in Mont-Anne, with "mont" meaning "mount"). Was this a hint, maybe? If that didn't quickly register, what came next was a succession of all kinds of ski resort signs. Yeah... I got it. Up.

After the 10km of mostly climbing that ensued, I eventually stopped at a bakery/convenience store in Saint-Something-of-Ferriols-des-Neiges to weigh my options. How much of this climbing was I in for, anyway? The next camping spot was some 50-60 km away, I knew. Well... here I was. Suck it up. I proceeded to carbo-load like a madman on the front steps of the store. I'd keep my options open well-fed at least, I thought, watching the rain turn into a dense fog. Hmmm, I pondered... good muffin! Oh yeah - gotta make a decision!

My Seattle experience made me think that this rain-to-fog thing went usually in the direction of sun in the afternoon. Would that be the case here? In any event this got me thinking optimistically - a good thing. Here it was 2p.m., I was already wet, and flopping for several hours in a soggy campground was less than appealing. Was there really a choice?

Fuck it, I concluded. I was going: Baie-de-Saint Paul (BSP) or bust! I mounted the bike with resolve. Perhaps too much so, or too quickly: it should have been telling that, 3 km later into the resumed climbing, I realized that I had left my gloves back at the store. Nope, I was not turning back. Resolve means ignoring screw-ups sometimes.

Forward...forward...forward. That'd be my only direction! And sure enough, after some 20km or more of sustained climbing through bucolic countryside and increasing sun, things did get better. I finally (although sadly in a sense, too) reached Rte 360's end to hook up again with Hwy 138. So much for the road less traveled - back to the highway.

What a huge difference there was between Hwy 132 and Hwy 138, I noted. This was immediately apparent if only on account of Hwy 138 having 3-4 lanes to Hwy 132's usual 2. It had big, big shouders, too. Now THAT was a very welcome thing, especially considering the bat-outta-hell traffic I soon found myself mingling with. It seemed like every car was hurriedly taking advantage of this superior road with its higher speed limits.

Still - I had more climbing to do. At least the sun tried ever more to peek out, though, and the sky lifted a bit to halt any remaining rain ideas. I took heart. Things were only going to get better!, I was sure. Or were they?

Apparently also taking heart at this time was a rather dastardly bunch of pesky gnats and mosquitoes, unfortunately. This didn't bode well. Indeed, my head was soon a facsimile of a beehive in motion. Crap! Furthermore, since I was climbing, I couldn't outrun this posse, either. Double ding dong crap! Among other things, my lack of any speed whatsoever allowed my new companions to buzz my eyes, ears, and helmet interior at their leisure. They took fleshy bites, too. Bastards! I'd soon learn all about my new friend the black fly.

Unsurprisingly, by this time I started to find the day's ride tiring. This was especially the case when I completed the final ascending kilometers to a summit of some 740m of altitude. Whew! I was relieved to top out in cooler, suddenly bugfree air, but I was spent, too. Enough with the black flies already!

Now remained only some primarily steep downhill bombing to Baie-Saint-Paul, at least, notwithstanding one or two honesty-rendering climbs thrown in. It'd all be over soon. Fittingly, the sign at the summit, noting downhill grades of 7-10% over the NEXT 20 km (the distance to BSP), had to be one of the most welcome highway signs I had ever seen.

Yet, there's always an odd wrinkle, isn't there? (Affirmative!) Yes, some wrinklage came soon enough in the form of three consecutive signs, each for Baie-Saint-Paul, some time later. Each stated the distance to Baie-Saint-Paul as 12 km. What? Was this The Twilight Zone? Was I going in circles? Moreover, they were spaced considerably apart. This seemed to make for a strange joke, but circle or no (and the answer was no, fortunately) I wouldn't let them do anything to dim my joy. Dowwwwwwn. Hill.

Finally and unquestionably making tracks to my destination, I decided to take a breather. Why not? I'd certainly earned it. Indeed, just outside of Baie-Saint-Paul was an info center perched above town. It commanded a sweeping view, thus further provided a timely and appealing place to stop and break my endless descent.

Within the info center, too, I'd be able to posit to the staff the possibility of retaking a scenic route to continue with on the next day. Was there such a thing? By this time I had resolved that Hwy 138 wasn't for me, not if I could help it - too much fast-moving traffic.

Receiving an enthusiastic affirmative to my query, a nice chat with the two guides there followed. They were closing out the day, bored with the dwindling number of people stopping by for help. Which helped me, as a consequence. Somebody with real and different questions probably provided a nice break from the routine, anyway.

They unquestionably made my day when they said that I understood their local Quebecois heaps better than a lot of folks from Montréal. Cha-ching - I wasn't above patting myself handily on the back for this thing I was working on. Yes, language entered the mix along with the trumpet, biking, and writing as my hobbies.

As a bonus to my newfound connection with kindred cycling spirits, I soon had in hand a great cafe suggestion in town (Cafe Vice). Beyond that I received a hostel/camp recommendation not found in my Québéc camping guide to boot. 'magine dat - I got useful info at the info center! Okay, perhaps that wasn't so odd... but I felt special nonetheless.

Regardless of such good insights, I was less than prepared for the 1 km climb that awaited. This came at the turn off just out of town from the main road up to the hostel, called Balcon Vert (green balcony). If I'd ever been on a steeper road with a cycle I didn't know it. Keee-rye-sttt! What the hell?

I almost immediately gave up on riding it, no fool I. My knees screamed for mercy, having already endured enough for a day. Obedience to them seemed in order. Shortly, too, after the pavement turned to gravel, I could barely WALK it anyway. Previously I had always looked at a kilometer as a short distance - never again! This was one measured in inches or, perhaps more aptly, centimeters.

It took considerable energy to keep my motion going at a crawling pace, even. The bike wanted to sideslip from its weight and flop over the entire time; it was that bad. Yikes. Here was an example of my bike's heavy rear-loading NOT working in my favor. To merely rest, I logically compressed the brakes tightly - only to have the bike start to slide backward (downhill) each time. Hmmm. Backward was a poor form of forward progress.

At 110-120 km, and 8 hours, of riding for the day, I had apparently saved the best for last. Two cars went by to offer only pitiful consolation, too. One carried a cute girl mouthing "Bon Courage!"; the other found the driver smiling while making a fist of power. No, they did not really help all that much.

Yet luck would shine on me one more time for the day. Just as I arrived, I snagged the final dormitory bed - there'd be no need to set up my tent! Hoo-raaaaaa ay. Just for that good fortune alone I thought I might have to stay an extra day. Or to compensate for the *(&^#$ hill, whichever. That the view of the bay from Balcon Vert's vantage point was stunning didn't hurt, though.

For the next day, one of rest, I was particularly active. Not in any sense of motion, however. From different spots overlooking the bay, I watched the brume (fog) roll in and out numerous times, all the while working on catching up and finishing out things. I transcribed a song, "Veinte Años" ("Twenty Years"), finished a book (Irving's "A Widow For a Year" - very good, with loads of sex - a prurient detaille, n'est pas?), and practiced the horn (including the learning of the jazz standard Cheek To Cheek).

Mostly, though, I spent time with the staff of the hostel, a habit of mine in all of my travels. Usually I didn't even have to put out much effort. I was the oddball with a trumpet after all, and this time I was on a bike for good measure. Call me a circus act, whatever. This made for a draw, apparently.

This particular non-profit hostel (un auberge sans but lucratif) was superbly run, minimally well-set-up with that likewise superb view. Throwing in the nice cabins, camping spots, tasty food, etc., it was quite the deal. It confirmed once more to me that non-profit hostels (like Auberge de la Paix, where I stayed in Québéc) really worked best... while costing the least, too. Not shabby.

Balcon Vert, for all of its good graces, was the scene for Sketchy Incident #2 (#1 being in that park Helene in Montréal), however. To set the stage, the greater bulk of people had left after my night #1 there (a Sunday). This made sense since Monday was a special national holiday for the 400th. Only some handfuls of people wandered about for most of the day as a consequence.

Regardless of that, a party developed again toward evening in the secondary commons area, which doubled as the "show/event area". Unfortunately this lay rather close to my cabin, in spite of my new home's other good graces. This time I wasn't in the mood to join in the festivities for whatever reason, however, even if I by then knew plenty of faces from the staff that would be there. I would have no doubt been welcome, but reckoned I would hear the music, anyway - no choice about that.

With the large number of people attending the "event", yet not officially staying the night (my dorm and others had gone empty), I was slightly paranoid of opportunists. So, I perhaps wasn't exactly shocked when at perhaps 3 or 4 a.m. - a guess, since it was pitch black out and the party had finished and quieted - the door separating my half of the building from the other half cracked audibly. Waking from my light sleep instantly, I jerked my head up from the pillow and stared. "Who dere?", my eyes glared.

Quickly I could make out a young man standing tensely partway in the doorway, cap cocked to a side, staring back at me. Next, his eyes swept the room, before returning to mine. I waited, and then perhaps 15 seconds elapsed, pregnant yet stillborn. Then he pulled back suddenly, shutting the door. I slowly dropped my head back down. Huh. I shoved my trumpet a little further into the corner of my bunk... maybe giving more evidence as to why musicians hug their instruments to sleep, at least in part. (I'm not licensed to talk about the other part, of course.)

The next morning I prepared to push off again, well rested with the extra night in Baie-Saint-Paul. A pair of previously unseen touring cyclists were just out my door, too, already doing their last adjustments to their gear outside of the cafeteria building. This provided a good chance to exchange road condition info: we were crossing paths.

For my part, I learned that this was to be my most challenging day in terms of steepness - a maximum 18 percent grade or so sustained. I eagerly lapped up the head's-up on the dangerous passage in Ste-Irenée to come. In turn, I told them to abandon all hope on the road ahead, out of Baie-Saint-Paul at least. Why, they could just give all of their gear to me and save the effort! For some reason, I wasn't taken up on such logical advice. They sure did have nice stuff.

Leaving Baie-Saint-Paul northward again, I immediately stopped at an overlook to blast some notes. I'd never be one to pass up a view-laden opportunity! Plus, it was already enough of a steep climb to achieve even that. This looked to be a long day, all right.

All told, I would put in some 55km to get to my campground in La Malbaie. This didn't sound like much, distancewise, but I assure you it was. To boot, the towns of this area had a habit of lying low to the coast, so I quickly learned that along this Bas St-Laurent (Lower St. Lawrence Seaway), one climbed only to drop completely again. Then climb once more. Black flies - yes, I could hear them smiling already.

Route 362, the scenic route to La Malbaie, was just that - seeeee-nick. As further evidence of this, there was even a pronounced cottage industry of painters on this coast. Everyone was a goddammed artist!, I moaned inwardly. Yeesh. Massive signs and sculptures fronted the untold legions of quaint (there's that word for the zillionth time - I apologize) houses which, truth be told, I would as often have termed manors. No starving arteeeeestes inhabited THIS locale.

Meanwhile, for all of this acquisition of scenery, my mental soundtrack was far less varied. It was, as it had been going on forever, still Veinte Años, with interludes of Siboney (another classic Cuban tune, a la Buena Vista Social Club) oddly thrown in. When it came to such dronelike repitition, however, I doubted that having two songs really beat out one song by much.

Yea - throughout the trip, there'd always been a tune playing like a repeating record in my head. Usually, though, it was hours before I summoned the energy or presence of mind to forcefully change the station. That was best done by humming another tune out loud with the hope of getting the new broken record established. Too much work for such a meagre-at-best payoff, it often seemed.

Heading east once more, I only made one detour from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie, at Domaine de Charlevoix. This regional park looked promising on paper, even (possibly) from the road. Was it? Yes, I was somewhere up high in the hills, still quite near the (invisible) coast, but... a view? Please? Perhaps...not.

Spinning my wheels on dirt track was always a chore, too: I quickly turned to measuring my progress versus potential reward as I only further removed myself from the beloved asphalt. 1km turned into perhaps 2 or 3, and that included sneaking my bike under a guardrail with STOP rather boldly displayed. Apparently I DID want the view.

Every bend's section-worth of distance away from the main road, though, made my wanting to add more that much less likely. So, when the path turned decidedly upward, my hopes went decidedly and accordingly downward. I packed it in. Enough with the hills, view or no.

One thing about Rte 362 - the Route du Fleuve (river route) - I well knew by now. These hills were serious! I had pshawed these foothills of the Appalachians (actually, I was still in the Laurentides I would later learn) beforehand quite wisely. My reasoning was that I lived in the big ol' Cascades, after all. So much for THAT. I thoroughly un-pshawed myself.

Still, steep climbs inevitably turned into steep declines - and I in turn became essentially a runaway train at times. One time, stopping to snatch up more debris (for a shockcord in superb condition; shockcords logically were the most common debris found outside of glass/plastic/rubber car rubble), I had a long walk back to retrieve my treasure after I finally halted. Huh. Thus shown, I knew that nothing would stop me on short order. I came to understand the concept of the runaway truck ramp; this was the day of living dangerously.

Regardless, I bombed down in true VTT (mountain bike/MTB) fashion. I guided my way by looking far ahead to anticipate subtle bumps, rocks, potholes, glass and other debris long before I would come to them. This viscerally reminded me of performing a similar feat when I'd drive 180kph+ on the German autobahn back in the day. The consequence of death was probably about the same. So... yes, I was an idiot. Not much had changed.

As advertised, St. Irenée was a bitch. THE bitch, perhaps, of the entire tour. Criminy! With no shoulder to speak of, and a meter-deep ditch drop to my right side, PLUS impatient holiday traffic, this was the longest kilometer or two ever. Well, outside of the OTHER longest kilometer to attain Balcon Vert - these challenges were starting to uncomfortably accumulate.

"Longest kilometer or TWO" need be emphasized, it should be noted, since the towns of the Rive-Nord (north bank) had a nasty habit of posting the number of kilometers to the next town before and after the one you were currently in. Somehow the numbers were always the same. Arghh!

In any case, the St Irenée climbing challenge was well-advertised, so what should I have expected? The tourism guy at Baie-Saint-Paul's info center had let out a whistle when I mentioned my route, and the Balcon Vert cyclists had warned me about it in the morning. Moreover, when I played my trumpet softly on St Irenée's river-level beach, I could see the sliver of road beyond way... up... there.

St Irenée almost got the best of me, truthfully. Starting up, I quickly began using driveways as places to execute tired circles and catch my breath. This kept me in honest motion when I wasn't moving forward, anyway, but it was hardly the stuff of which legends were made. Not that I had such pretense, but it's good to dream that the option's there, no? Meanwhile my attitude was inspired by the "rulebook" out in the ether regarding taking one's foot off of the pedal and touching ground. Assuredly that would be cheating! To who? Who cared? Me.

Nearing the top, FINALLY, the ditch alongside the road managed to grow to some 3-5 meters in depth. Great. Topping that, side wind blasts began to push the bike severely, too. With each gust, I had to focus to keep my front wheel straight and away from the beckoning curb. Ah, what fun I was having on my little jaunt in the country! Cycling had gone now from merely pedalling to holding on for my dear life in amazingly short order.

Eventually a windblast after a passing truck did the trick of forcefully dismounted me, regardless. This happened with such speed that I only barely managed to stop an inch from the curb. Well hello down there! Not today, thank you. The mountain biker in me smiled, heartrate notwithstanding: only more two feet remained to where the curb and guardrail disappeared. That would've left nothing but air between me and the lush turf below. Far below.

Standing there in post-cardiac mode, I took stock of my stupid situation. With the constant sideways pressure of the wind tickling my skin, and amidst the drowning rush of sound it generated, I gazed at the field of green to my right singing its siren song. I think it went something like "Sleep... sleep... sleep... PLASTERED in my arms..." Just about.

This was the first day I was jumping up into my clipped-in stirrups, too, standing on the pedals to save my knees. They were really starting to feel it. At least, for the trip's first time, my calves received a reprieve. I had noticed that they had already begun to fatten up with muscle a bit. Not bad, but there was a price for that, too.

Now it was my thighs' turn to kick it up a notch. Forced dismount aside, I was determined to not walk a step of my route for two months. Conveniently, of course, trudging on foot up Balcon Vert's Kilometer of Death was written off as not being part of the route. That was an offshoot instead. Right? Right.

Regardless, now being on my 2nd-to-last gear and standing up, I was now all of only two degrees away from such impending, defeat-rendering disaster. No. Fuckity Fuck No! Not today, not yet. I thus ground it out to suck up the remaining hill. Soon I topped out to arresting headwinds and rain, but it was over. The summit! And, as a reward, just like that my situation switched from blasted climbing to the eerie silence of a tailwind. I was flying once more.

Once again I could take the measure of things calmly. For instance, I realized that the reality of the scenic route was that it was often the original (and at one time, the only) one. It tended to follow a mountain or coast with dare because that was where people wanted to be. This was kind of like the lack of switchbacks in South America on trails in the Andes: the shortest distance between two points is indeed a line.

Perhaps this is my way of saying that, whereas Hwy 138 paid attention to gradient, always keeping it in check, Rte 362 didn't. It was what it was and always had been. As a consequence, entirely because of that slight detail of inclination - and the unattractive option of restarting when stopped on a climb - I made a point of only jotting down my written notes at summits. Those were also good times to suck down huge amounts of water.

Beyond those obvious logistical matters, summits were also a good place to keep a heart attack in check, I figured. These hills just weren't offering any pleasing rollercoaster action at all, I mused. Where were those rollers where I could use a furious downhill pedal and momentum to carry myself up to the next summit? Instead, on this day in particular, I was reintroducing myself to the sweet comforts of the granny gear (the lowest). At least this was done still only while sitting! With one degree to spare (having to stand on granny gear), I had my pride.

During all of these travails and triumphs, meanwhile, cars whizzed relentlessly by. Sometimes I took note of the open stares, smiles, laughs, or pointing even. Making eye contact occasionally, my inner voice screamed "Pussies! Yea, tis I that endureth the elements!" Yeah, that was EXACTLY what I said planted on my inner stage, and in stentorian voice no less. Not that being clean, seated, air-conditioned, rested, and not accompanied by swirling flies didn't have its upside...

Nearing La Malbaie, I stopped for a view at a campground with an overlook of the river. A possibility, yes, but I soon rejected this in favor of more punishment. Instead I enjoyed a conversation with the guy running it. It turned out that he was another developing-world traveler who loved jazz, like me: we had some meat to chew. Plus, like (fortunately) almost all Quebecois, he was willing to stay conversationally in French (even though his English far exceeded my French). This was both charitable and appreciated: I knew that doing so took patience and understanding from plentiful experience myself.

This reminded me of something from earlier in the day. Back while playing the trumpet on St Irenée's beach, I had been approached by a man to check out St. Irenée's international school of music nearby. I had declined at the time since (A) it required another hill climb, (B) I stank from sweat and sunscreen juice, and (C) I had no idea if anyone was even up there (concerts were in the evenings). Now here my new friend again brought up the school, then quite a bit more about jazz in Québéc in general. Shouldn't I just turn around and check it out? No.

BE. CAUSE. Actually, it only had a little to do with repeating the tough climb through St. Irénée. No, here was the rub instead: I didn't like a lot of jazz. I LOVED some, a direct consequence of "jazz" being an unfortunately overloaded word - but no more and no less. In attending concerts, I well knew that I preferred to already be acquainted with a group or musician's sound before laying down the $ and time to listen. I didn't consider this being close-minded, or necessarily stingy, just logical. I didn't tend to spend money on chances, or gamble in general for that matter - t'ain't me, babe!

Indeed, with jazz I expected to be bored most of the time: THAT was the truely unforgivable sin, wasting time. Much of jazz served best as background or soundtrack music for me - why devote my time or resources toward something undeserving of my full attention? But, as regarded the case with this passionately jazz-devoted man, I couldn't let on this viewpoint. Jazz fans are nothing if not enthusiastic; I'd be damned if I'd start the rain a-falling.

I hedged instead when the conversation took this sidepath into jazzdom. I knew I had no detour outside of only smiling and nodding. Somehow I weaseled out of similar suggestions for the town ahead, too. What a party pooper I was!

In any event, La Malbaie proved a destination in name and convenience only anyway. Hell, with a name like "lousy bay" (my translation - make your own), one really couldn't expect much! Its setting was pleasant enough, yes, seated where a river was feeding out to a large bay. Even the buildings looked well cared for, too. Some were even relatively new and crispy-cleanlike.

Nevertheless, I still found the scent of a dead place. As a consequence it was obvious that tourists wouldn't be coming there. That was fine in itself, of course, but it also meant I'd not find many more options than dining at McDonald's or Mike's. Mike's it was (hell hadn't quite frozen over enough to hit McD's), then, and that wasn't a bad thing, surprisingly. (If you are ever stuck in La Malbaie, there's my plug - quickly move on afterward.)

My belly taken care of, up next came my campground some 3km up the river outside of La Malbaie. This was located adjacent to a waterfall (les Chutes Frasier), a bonus in its pleasant spectacle. My riverside campspot proved the nicest to date, too. La Malbaie had something going for it after all! Well, not entirely: flies and mosquitoes still relentlessly chased me about. This made for a frantic dance of monter la tente (put up the tent), unfortunately, but that wasn't anything overly untoward. It was by now accepted as par for the course.

The next day consisted of 75 relatively hilly kilometers to Tadouussac. This would be my next destination to stay put at for a bit - when I got there. I was now back on Hwy 138, so at least nothing would get too out of hand, inclinewise. There were enough coasting sections among the climbs to keep things at nice keel, too.

The only major drop-climb was at Saint Simeon, a possible ferry-crossing spot I wouldn't avail myself of. No, I was already on the correct side of the river, thank you very much. Instead I dined there on local Salmon pate, soon chatting for a good while with some cycling tourists just arrived from the Rive-Sud (south bank) ferry. They were - as always, it seemed - headed in the other direction.

As a backdrop of sorts, we stood in the shadow of a tacky whale edifice (the main tourist attraction for the area). That somehow seemed an appropriate place to compare gear and cycling notes. Indeed, this poking and prodding of others' gear was standard procedure among us cycle tourists - expected, almost. It seemed to happen without exception - and this was no exception.

But enough of the delaying - I had to get a git on - it was still 39 km to Tadoussac! This, fortunately, went by reasonably easy enough: I finally reached the famous fjord at whose foot Tadoussac lay. Only some minutes after arrival, a (free) ferry dished the few cars and my solitary cycle across. Tadoussac! Rest.

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