Québéc, New Brunswick, Maine - Tadoussac To Gaspé
From Tadoussac it'd be only some 40 km to the ferry at Les Escoumins. This would be where I'd cross the St. Laurent a last time; it'd be a significantly longer crossing, too. Not exciting, perhaps, but... different. No possibility of a bridge, fr'instance.
In just getting out of town, meanwhile, the sun was slow in establishing itself - that'd make for a brisk start. Would this be something of an omen for the day? I'd later discover... yes! But that was hours away and, as usual, I'm getting just slightly ahead of things.
True, I had had a few similarly cold mornings, but this one had a bit more edge to it. Was it because the Seaway was now significantly widening? That stood to reason, certainly. In any event, it was actually only by chance that I decided to break out my colder weather riding gear this time. That was probably more the result of staying put - and warm - for several days in the same place. Besides, I hadn't used any of that clothing yet - now I'd have an excuse for dragging it along all of this time! Such justifications had their value, if only mentally.
My excuse would soon turn into a necessity. Not that there wasn't a little climbing out of Tadoussac to get me initially warmed up. Then, after that, it was mostly plateaued riding with generally wide shoulders to Escoumins. Actually this made for easy sledding, with (practically) nary a car in sight. Instead of vehicles, indeed, was one crystalline lake after another alongside the road. Ah, yes - this was something to be expected in fjord country. I nodded approvingly, lost otherwise mentally in the monotony of... well, flying. Talk about an easy day.
As I neared Escoumins, however, an increasing fog and mist rolled in. This happened with such confidence that the temperature steadily and precipitously dropped. Not exactly raining on my day-of-ease's parade, but misting it at the least. Brrr - thankfully I was properly dressed and pedalling hard to keep warm! This was a necessity: by the time I reached the ferry landing, the thermometer likely read in the mid-40s. The visibility, meanwhile, had come down to 100 ft. at best. This was summer?
Whatever - nothing could hide the OTHER obvious fact: I had come to the loneliest ferry in the world. Wasn't it, like, leaving soon? Hmmm - was this the right place? Sure said so, but... only one other vehicle was already taking up solitary residence there. This was an old rusted van, resting in a seemingly-abandoned stance.
Still, it was in front of the ferry, giving proof to some meagre degree of the proposed operation. The beast itself looked to be of circa 1910 (1810?) vintage, a bathtubby lump of iron negligibly floating along the rocky dock. Not exactly promising stuff, but I had more important issues for the time being: only minutes upon arriving I already felt compelled to layer up. I was quickly losing body heat, and I'd shortly learn that I would have to wait a couple of hours for the pleasure of entering such a fine vessel. Anticipation is supposed to portend good things, no?
Maybe not. Not only was the ferry lonely, it turned out that the wait was a result of the most farted-up schedule ever. I pondered its wackiness, surely a thorn in the one or seven people who must use the thing on any kind of a regular basis.
What a mess, I discovered: each previous day's schedule (consisting of 2 or 3 crossings) added an hour to each time as the week progressed. It got better, too: Saturday and Sunday were completely random, unrelated affairs from the weekdays, and one Monday significantly different from the next. "WTF?!?" I believe was the colloquial expression. In any event, I finally determined that MY ferry would leave at 8 p.m. I truly hoped the crew was aware of that detail - it would be a cold night's wait otherwise.
The fog's visibility had already lowered to 30 feet by this time - would the ferry even be able to leave in this soup? To kill time, I tried my hand at playing the horn - not to much avail. That proved a mostly futile struggle for an hour or so, what with my chapped lips and cold-slowed fingers. For an audience, various cars came out to the bleak point - only to look about, turn around, roll down their windows, then slowly creep away. This place was sorry to one and all alike.
I truly felt like I was at the end of the world, or what little of it I could still make out what with the fog and all. There was no (even rudimentary) ferry terminal as one would expect, either, just a jumble of rocks and construction gear. Apparently one was going to be built, but it didn't look like a very active construction site. My best guess was that it had been a derelict one for some time. Something might get built by 2010, perhaps... or 2020. Looked like about even odds.
The ticket-taker - I was only later to discover that it was he - meanwhile gave proof to the upcoming occasion (of transport!) He came and went multiple times, driving his car almost up to me each time, then backing out slowly. Huh.
I soon attempted to figure this odd behavior out: was he stalking me in some bizarre fashion? Was he getting ready to try his hand at robbery-in-isolation? Certainly I would have been easy pickings either which way. Finally, however, he parked his car a little ways up the hill and ran down to me excitedly. Push was meeting shove - about time.
To be fair, it wasn't all that. Although I TYPICALLY would've been put off by some guy charging down a hill toward me willy-nilly, I wasn't in this case. No, this was more of a Forrest Gump kind of affair - he had the broad smile of a simpleton, visible a mile away. THAT assessment quickly turned out to be far closer to the truth than anything bespeaking menace.
He was quite friendly, to be frank. It was all about the trumpet! He had been playing drums - occasionally trying his hand at blowing some trumpet, too - for the last 2 years. Now here was some wackadoo tune doodling at the dock! His curiosity was beyond arroused.
In the meantime, when he slowly made out Do-Re-Mi with his fingers to show his mastery of the horn, I knew that this one would be an easy-pleaser. You want tunes? I got tunes! In no time I showed off appropriately, choosing a few upbeat diddies. Bingo - he laughed with glee. I marked another convert.
Finally, it was time to go. The ferry would leave on schedule - whaddya know! Indeed, from nowhere materialized several more walk-ons and a couple of cars at the last minute. Finally, a concrete (and good) omen: I'd have company! In presence, anyway.
Apparently this wasn't a ferry for the chatty type. Like me, for example. No, the 1-1/2 hour ride would instead prove to be a solemn journey into the fog, conversation almost nonexistent. Sigh. I'd have to make do with the sole noises being the drumming of a diesel engine... and the continual blasts of a foghorn. No one but no one seemed in a sharing mood, all business and no pleasure.
The onboard crew wouldn't prove much more interesting, either. They were ostensibly there to sell things, but they had nothing to do with our sullen, tight-pocketed bunch. No one wanted to buy anything from the meager onboard stock but, then again, that shouldn't have been surprising. The candies appeared 10 years old, melted into lumpy shapes and visible through the packaging - getting a bite to eat was quickly out of the question. A souvenir hand warmer would have been more in order, anyway.
Not only was the crew not interested in making a sale, I wasn't sure if they even realized the point of the operation - making money. Indeed, although I had been issued a ticket of sorts, at no time was I asked to actually PAY for my passage. By the journey's approaching end, this struck me as quite odd - I was being completely ignored. Usually, that's not a bad thing, but... WTF?
Finally, knowing that the trip was almost over - and still with no one forthcoming to ask for money - I suggested to (who I assumed to be) the purser that I might pay. You know, exchange money for services rendered and all that? It wasn't that I was completely down on my favorite word, FREE, or anything, but... WTF?
Slightly taken aback by my impertinence, the elderly woman behind the ship's store quickly regained her composure. You want to... ? Ah, yes! She led me off to run my credit card through a machine in the back. With her expression seeming to suggest "sure, if that's what you want..." - I began to wonder if I could've just skated. Nah - of course not! SOMEONE had to pay for this jewel of a wreck!
When we arrived at fog-entombed Trois-Pistoles - invisible until literally the final minute - a gruff old man DID ask for my ticket. Ah-ha! A system! True, he looked at me as if judging a scofflaw - "hey, I paid" my expression read in return - but he took the ticket in any event. He summarily stuffed the slip of paper into his pocket without viewing it. Hmmm. I coulda handed him a receipt for some dinosaur-aged candy, I thought...
Happily on land again, I now had three more foggy kilometers to go if I wanted to reach my campground. Still, even with the dead quiet and complete darkness, I wasn't worried. Who the hell would be out in this muck, anyway?
It was a bit warmer now, finally back on the Rive-Sud (my mantra: warmth solves everything). This felt good. Trafficwise, I had little to worry about - I moved far over onto the gravel for the one car that deigned appear. The city campground, my destination on the river's bank, soon appeared.
Talk about weird - all of a sudden I saw signs of life: a manned entry station. I was quite glad to see a human, and a chipper, pretty young woman at that. I soon entered the large, spic-and-span clean campground. Who woulda thought on a night like this?, I wondered. Then again, it wasn't like I would've chosen another if it wasn't.
No, by this time there was only one thing I really cared about: SLEEP! Thus, when I spotted a shelter near my "official" spot, I made the snap decision to camp inside. No one was about, anyway, and, being late already, this would spare me both staking the tent and putting up the rain fly in the dark. With the ground wet from the mist, I'd get out of tent-drying time, too. So... tired!
The next morning had me out and on the road at a luxurious 10:30a.m. Apparently I had been... sleepy! Yawn. I felt considerable ease in deciding to have a big breakfast and do some more handwashing of clothes - that had been a long and cold day before! Laundry and such grub seemed a necessary reset button by this time, even if my underwear would finish drying attached to the shockcords on the bike. This was no time for prudery.
Of significance, on this day there'd be plenty enough wind to accelerate any drying job I had in mind. More importantly, however, it'd all be from behind - what luck! That'd drastically help me with putting in some 100km for the day, including stopping to eat and trumpet blasting at an overlook at Bic National Park. When the wind's not your enemy, it's your best friend. Hello, friend!
Now I was back on my old friend Hwy 132, last seen upon arrival to Q City. Whatever - what was far more noticeable was that I now found myself flying on the flats almost exclusively. This was even true as I observed a sharp lumpy ridge to my left (next to the river) and a slow riser to my right over many kilometers. Here was a clue indeed that I was at an end of the Appalachians. Of course, this was always true as I ran the river's edge: the St. Laurent/St. Lawrence IS the dividing line between the Appalachians and the Laurentides. Now it felt more pronounced, this feeling undoubtedly heightened by that glorious tail breeze.
With such swiftness, and a purring chain, I reached Rimouski after only a mere 65-70km or so. Would this be a stop? It certainly was an actual city, a hopeful thing that increased that likelihood as I took a first gander at this pleasant harbor town. Or maybe it was a college town. It had that feel, looking to be the size of a Tallahassee, Olympia, Ann Arbor, Eugene, or similar such in breadth and population. I quickly opted for trying to stay - should circumstances warrant it.
THAT seemed hopeful, mainly because there was an unexpected auberge de la jeunesse ("youth" hostel, more a traditional moniker since all ages were typically welcome). It was helpfully located right next to an appealing area of downtown, replete with funkier stores and sidewalk activity... and cafes. That'd suffice as an excuse to stay; I imagined an internet connection at the hostel to catch up on my online journal, too.
Once these kinds of thoughts begin to take hold, it can be a hard thing to stop. Indeed, it seemed to take no time at all for the hamsters in my brain to think about jumping off of their wheels to take a break. Squirrels set down their nuts; the beavers were ready to call the dam done. But... but... but.
I thought about the favorable winds I had been enjoying only so briefly to this point in the day. One never knew with the wind... I hemmed. But I continued on to the hostel, where an exceedingly friendly man ushered me in somewhat frantically... I hawed. In the end, it was this guy running the auberge who somewhat unnerved me sufficiently to decide. Nah.
It wasn't because my new host wasn't friendly enough, however. It was just that "mellow" was more the mind state I was looking for, and his intensity of demeanor was more than I was ready for. Especially after (or soon to be nearly) a day of riding. He was extremely generous, actually, but it was his simultaneously odd and off-putting way in making a string of offers that killed the stay.
"You want internet? Hey, you can use my laptop. That's really good, isn't it? It's up to you. You don't want to? You do? Up to you - no one does that for you, no? You want to make a phone call? Here. This is my personal phone. It's free. Call any number you want to in the world. You don't want to? It's free! I'm offering you free phone calls. Here. Take it. Make a phone call if you want. Here's my computer. I gotta step out. Call me if... no?... yeah! Keep this door closed, this one open. They (who?) don't want me to let people do this. See that video camera there...?"
Whoa. Some minutes into this, I took my first breath. Mellow this wasn't.
To be fair, perhaps this opening barrage took in its entirety the space of five - or fifty - expansive seconds. I'll never know - my brain shut down as all the hamsters prepared protest signs. Then again, and to be fairer still, it WAS an impressively continuous stream of rapid fire suggestions and observations. In any event, I couldn't possibly think in time to answer any question before the next one came along. Was I being asked questions? Why was the room spinning? Somewhere in the pile of verbage he squeezed in that he didn't drink. My guess (when, at a safe remove, I regained my ability to string two thoughts together) was that he was on cocaine - or something similar at any rate.
Fittingly, and immediately after this stunning display of loquacity, he left me on a run. I stood mouth agape in the stunned vacuum left behind, one hand holding his computer and the other his phone. I was in a daze - did I just agree to anything? I wasn't sure. Even all the hamsters in my noggin were arguing over what to write on their placards, or if they even should.
In the end it wouldn't matter anyway - the mouse on his computer was unlike any I had used before, rendering the computer useless. Or maybe I was just too overwhelmed to really figure it out. Taking all of his monologue had just been too intense for my tired state of mind - I decided that I was not ready to deal with this town. It was time to move on, merely minutes after thinking I would stay. I figured that I'd tell him it was on account of favorable winds.
But I couldn't just leave his computer and phone there, not in an open and otherwise unoccupied building. Crap. I sat there alone in command of the hostel, weighing my options and my escape plan. Some fifteen minutes later I still hadn't twitched, lost in indecision, but he fortunately returned. Thank god. His monologue of questions resumed. Oh no, not again! "The winds!" I begged, hoping to be released on good behavior for not taking him up on his generosity.
Really, he WAS a nice guy. I think, anyway. He volunteered, travelled the world, he even had similar life philosophies to mine. But, speed freak/high-on-life or no, I wasn't up to the challenge of being on the receiving end of such intensity. Or entertaining so many questions. As a parting gift or a door prize, I suppose, I let him ramble on at his sustained high speed... while all the while slowly getting geared up to go, inching toward the street.
I felt bad that I was rejecting such an outpouring of well-meant hospitality, but I just didn't have the energy. Plus, I found that conversations in the form of dialogues were much more engaging. No dice; ix-nay on the stay. He looked befuddled as I finally rolled away, unbelieving that I wouldn't be taking up his numerous offers. No, I guessed I wouldn't - I was thinking clearly again.
It was only another another 30-35 km to Ste. Flavie, a ribbon of asphalt that flew by without event. For my efforts I merely noticed islands and rocks that gathered in number on the shore. They only served to render the cruise ever more picturesque as I went along. This was fortunate - that nature was increasing its visual appeal - because the architecture was steadily losing much of its Frenchness at the same time. Unfortunately it was being increasingly replaced in favor of beach houses of a totally nondescript order - boring! Old Québéc was finally being left behind, its taste being replaced with something not anywhere near as appealing.
Still, Ste. Flavie meant I was finally in the Gaspesie. Not that I had the grand plans for the Gaspesie that I had previously entertained. It was only recently - on the same day at the info center in Rimouski in fact - that I had decided against riding the entire Gaspesie coast. I was told that it would be much the same of what I was already seeing. Hmmm, I only briefly thought.
American-looking beach houses weren't alluring in and of themselves, I well knew. A pass on their allure, thus, seemed reasonable. Plus, rounding the complete coast would be at least a 10-day commitment to cover some 850-900km. That'd just be in riding time alone, even as I was also informed that it would be flatter than I had originally thought according to a guide.
I festered briefly under the helpful bureau-person's eye, eyeballing routes and distances on the maps. Finally I made up my mind: from Ste. Flavie I would make the 150km cut to Matapedia, where a river dumped out to the sea and the east. From that point on I'd be on the Atlantic, not coincidentally also alongside New Brunswick. I realized that I was now at the midpoint of my trip - the next day made it official - so why not change coasts? Yes - it'd be on to New Brunswick's Acadia, and an end to my journeys in French Canada.
In Sainte-Flavie for the night, I didn't start with that audacious plan of 150km come morning, however. Instead I had a leisurely breakfast, followed by a pause to blow a few notes into the sea at S-F's crumbling wharf. Basking in some sun, I was ever-thankful for yet another random wharf (or park) at the water's edge that broke up a now seemingly-endless string of private properties. I won't go there - thank me later. (The temptation to get started on my philosophies of land ownership can run strong, even as I disavow a communist take as unpractical.)
Indeed, and at least on the St. Laurent, virtually every possible site now fronting water (certainly from Rimouski on) had a house, restaurant or hotel on it. Jeez! Even the random gas station of old, especially one that contained a grandfathered-in view, would go the way of the saber tooth tiger soon enough in these parts. It had gotten tough to find a spit of public land to lay a hat, let alone a two-ton bike - or to play a horn with lungs full of air.
Finally done with these lazy morning's tasks, at 10:30a.m. I found myself off and on my way - obviously in not much of a hurry. It was sunny, with a bit more tail wind than not. Not bad. Right away the hills began, too. Not necessarily good. Still, they were nothing serious, not really, even if it wouldn't be a repeat of the previous day's coasting, either. Looking ahead, I saw that it was 75km to Amqui - roughly the halfway point to Matapedia - maybe I'd pass the night there... or maybe I'd be... Rimouski-ed. There'd be only one way to know, and twas to go.
Not so fast. Still looking at the map, a more confusing issue came to light. I couldn't hazard a guess as to where the Atlantic officially began to hold court. Such technicalities could influence my mentality - when would I be able to say that I was there?
Matapedia was the first possibility, since it touched water which eventually opened to the sea. Could be. Certainly that'd be it until where the waterway widened to give way to Pointe-a-la-Croix or its bigger counterpart across the water, Campbellton. They seemed more definitely on the big sea if Matapedia wasn't. Hey - who gets to decide these things, anyway? I entertained a vision of a balding geographer standing precisely on the Prime Meridian in the Royal Observatory in London's Greenwich, without a doubt tapping a wooden ruler against a tattered canvas map.
Semantics aside, I figured Amqui to be my day's likely destination, if not Causapscal at 100km if the legs and will were there. Both had camping, and supposedly there wasn't any more of that until Pointe-a-la-Croix. They also represented enough distance to assure I'd be on the Atlantic the following day after an extended downhill. I'd play it by ear.
Rolling away, up to St. Moises the hills picked up enough to keep me honest but never miserable. Winds shifted around, but with a beautiful sun I could only be in good spirits. This was so much so that, as each town approached, I decided to leave the highway which skirted their outskirts in favor of midtown rambles. I was modestly rewarded for this as, without exception, each town was pleasant - even if frankly dead, too. Meanwhile "Bonjour" went out to the few walkers-about, of course, and I'd continue to ever gander at the silver church steeple, still present in even these tiniest of villages.
Now in such sparsely-populated areas, familiar questions returned to the fore. Who funded these churches' construction and/or upkeep? Who filled them up beyond their first two or three pew rows? Indeed, in some bigger towns like Québéc and Rimouski, churches had been turned into libraries and museums. That was at least one sensible use of such grandiose buildings which would otherwise have been left to crumble. But they also had PEOPLE.
Churches aside, the other thing you could count on in these towns was a river or lake to front it. Those probably had given rise as to why there was a town there in the first place. The world over, it's all about water when it comes to human settlements. In these cases the towns were so small as to not be able to miss the fact.
Come Sayabec, at around 40km of the day, Lake Matapedia began and, from what I could see, it just went on and on. Geez, that's big! Too, this I took as a good thing. Lakes often have flat terrain fronting them, and roads traditionally follow shores. Fortunately on this score, THIS time, I was right. Thus I sailed with ease 35km later into Amqui, almost completely on the flats. With a little time on my hands, I tried to hunt down a Quebecois-flag biking jersey, but no luck. Drats.
Yes, I wanted another flag jersey to join my more randomly chosen Mexican-flag special. I had chosen the jersey as my trip's souvenir, but this time it was one I could feel I had earned. If I could only finally the darn thing... and I was running out of province with New Brunswick looming in the very near future.
Striking out unsuccessfully on this score in Amqui, I guessed that I'd likely have to find it somewhere on the internet later. Yeah, the Montréal and Québéc stays would have been the right times to look, but I hadn't. Silly me. [On the internet score, I would have no luck there, either - the flag version couldn't be found anywhere in its traditional rectilinear form. Only a fancified new version, all swerves and curves, was available. That didn't appeal to me in the least - I wanted the flag, damnit!]
Meanwhile I had notched 75km for the day already and I found myself in Amqui at all of only 3:30p.m. Hmmm - I knew I wasn't done for the day. Next thing I knew I had ratcheted up the figure to 100km after more flats and a lakeside lunch - I still felt like I didn't have to be finished. Uh oh - this is how trouble begins. That's what I should have thought, anyway. But no.
I heard something distinctly different, something more to the tune of "Go TripTrumpet, Go!" I imagined a summoning of the masses to scream their cheers. This could have been dehydration, but hallucinogens probably exist in MANY forms. Regardless, I had other factors to consider, too: the next day called for rain, and I knew it would now be mostly downhill to the Atlantic if only for logic's sake of having sufficiently climbed and an acute understanding that the sea is at... sea level.
To perhaps help the decision along, I conversed for a while with yet another cute, fresh-faced, info center girl at Causapscal. There I decided that THIS was to be THE day. To go for it. Applause broke out everywhere...in my mind. I would have been happy with just the girl.
Undoubtedly it helped that my Queen-Isabel-du-jour informed me that a bus to Gaspé would stop at Pointe-a-la-Croix. Yeah - I'd already bagged on riding out there, but I still wanted to check out the prime spots of the Gaspesie one way or another. Plus at Pointe-a-la-Croix I'd also have access to known camping beforehand. Moreover, as a backup, I learned that the same could be said about the town of Matapedia some 20km before it. Good enough. All I needed to do was afix the flags of conquest to my seatpost and victory would surely be mine.
Except... two things might mess up my dreams of a record 175km day: the first was darkness. The other was this funny, clunking noise coming from the bowels of my bike. Oh, crud. I figured that the likely culprit was a failing bottom bracket. Crap.
Still, there wouldn't be any bike shops until Campbellton to save me, anyway. I had noticed, too, that all of the fly fishermen I was seeing along the Matapedia River on the way had two things in my favor: they (1) probably came from the direction of Matapedia town and (2) had small boats with trailers that one could easily flop a wounded bike into. Going... going... gone. I sped away at a wobbly handful of kilometers per hour.
Next I raced the darkness then, creeping-ly, fatigue as well. Fortunately the entire way to Matapedia town was indeed proved the gentlest of downhills, almost flat, and always following the river. For kilometer after kilometer, it seemed the Appalachian foothills were lowering themselves, and me, to the sea. Well, okay, they WERE.
But this didn't stop them from being a valley version of false summits without end - which they decidedly and gratefully weren't. It got such that, to stave off my growing and overwhelming fatigue, I finally had to stop and eat a powerbar. THAT was something this trip hadn't seen to date, more the kind of thing I'd do on accidentally epic MTB ride instead.
(Here I'd like to submit a brand disclosure, if only for the discerning rider: the morsel of choice was a Genisoy Chocolate Mint Bar, a flavorful lil' thing I'd sworn by for years to not make me not want to barf up. This is known as worthwhile information to the uninitiated to the world of power bars.)
This concept of a casual powermunch trainwrecked right away, however, into a comedy of errors. I repeatedly stopped for approximately three-second-long pauses to eat, each time mercilessly harried by a swarm of black flies that descended to attack with abandon. Being the bastards they were, and it being dusk to boot (insect time!), I really got it good. Every square inch of my exposed skin screamed without exception: "Onward!" When not doing the swat dance, anyway. This was not exactly "Charge!", but it was loads better than "Retreat!" Right?!?
Soon enough, having suffered several of these assaults, I just smashed the mushy bar into my mouth in its entirety. This was no time for mucking about with propriety and other decorum. Besides, it was melting, making things even more interesting. THAT had made for a widely-smudged and brown lipstick, which in turn likely only gave my latest swarm of friends something else to think about and glom onto. Gr-eat.
For such efforts, the wrapper was soon a mess of goo, too. On account of that, and since there was nowhere (proper!) to dispose of it, I soon became a wrapper-licking, fly-swatting windmill. Such grace was never meant to be expressed by mere mortals, even if all the while I was getting relentlessly nailed anyhow. For all of these antics I finally just shoved the wrapper into my pants, making it look like I had shit myself into my front pockets by some means. How impressive: my best eco-intentions (of not trashing the environment) had left me looking like a potty-training two-year-old.
All that verbage is the long way of stating that I got to Matapedia a little after 8pm, shortly after the sun had left for good behind one of the foothill "summits". It was still another 20km of sledding on to Pointe-a-la-Croix for all that accomplishment, however. Regardless, even before Matapedia I knew that I had mentally already decided to make it a 100mi (160km) day with full baggage. Come hell (or broken bike or broken spirit), I'd be going from one coast to the other, lumbering over all of the Appalachian foothills in a single day.
This felt ballsy, but apparently I wanted to do something ballsy right then and there. If only to show myself that it was doable, it would also set a bar of possibility if need be for the upcoming New Brunswick and Maine segments. With August 2nd to loom at some point in the future as my end-of-the-ride date, I might have to put foot to pedal at some unforeseen time. Why not know what was in the tank?
Okay, such justifications were a bit foolish. This proved especially so when I arrived at Pointe-a-la-Croix in full darkness, with a few hills on the final approach thrown in just to piss me off a little. For all that, too, it turned out that the town was more of a barely-populated Indian reservation than anything else. This I found out when the gang at the liquor store at the water's edge suggested I cross the river. Over in Campbellton (New Brunswick) I'd surely have better options for passing the night.
Sweetening the choice, I was informed that the bus to Gaspé would detour there anyway from Pointe-a-la-Croix - if only since Campbellton was a much bigger town. Armed with such valuable info, I crossed over the beautifully-lit 1km bridge. I quickly (mercifully!) found an aforementioned hostel there within minutes. That was an exceptional turn of fate for my efforts indeed: I had steeled myself to plunk down for a hotel by this point. What a great surprise and reward after a long day... and it was a mere two blocks away from my upcoming bus stop.
Only one other person was at the hostel - in part an old lighthouse - in the meantime, coincidentally another cycle tourist (Mark). He had somewhat paralleled my path, though usually on the other side of the river than what I had chosen - consistently the more typical route.
Enthused by meeting fellow cycle-tourers, we shared horror stories (black flies!!!), bike gear specs and so on. He, too, was headed on to Gaspé but à velo. Following that he'd then be taking the train back to Ottawa. I was still happy to be busing it to Gaspé, however, leaving my rig in Campbellton. Sure, it wasn't exactly the same thing, but I didn't have the time for the detour. Besides, 180km in a day called for a reward! Where were those cheering crowds, anyway?
The next morning I hung out at the hostel waiting for my bus. I passed the time chiefly in a long conversation with the local guy tending the hostel, a pre-med student on his summer job. I probably rattled his ear off, loaded on coffee, but he was absolutely genial about the onslaught. And, for all that, he was a good one to pick the brain of about New Brunswick. For example, I learned that New Brunswick is the only bilingual Canadian province.
Huh. This would soon be proven without a doubt, if only by conversations as they would occur. In Campbellton I was in the more "French" area, Acadia, where seemingly everyone could seamlessly and accentlessly (the young more particularly) switch between English and French. In fact, usually after the first sentence - if there was any confused pause or hesitation - the speaker would ask immediately "Are you English?" or perhaps "Vous êtes français?" I heard many a "Bonjour Hi" and "Au revoir bye bye" on the streets of Campbellton that day. Pretty cool.
The hostel guy also used a map to show me a bit of trivia, that of two still-French islands near Newfoundland. What, the French still in the New World? This was fightin' talk! In exchange, and in (ahem!) equally collegial tones, I showed him Point Roberts. This settlement lay in Washington state, but on an isolated spit from the Canada mainland where the high school kids had to bus through Canada each day. They had to get over to the rest of the state for their lessons.
A good egg, he promised to look into my bike's bottom bracket issue while I was gone on to the Gaspesie. It had behaved well the last 30km of the previous day, only after complaining for the prior 30 km, but I knew better than to just trust that. He promised to look into that Fleur-de-lis Quebecois jersey thing, too, but I had doubts that he could possibly find that worth his bother.
Eventually, I was off and onto the bus. There never was a chance of missing it, anyway: I had gotten up crazy early, even taking into account the goodly ride of the previous day. Weird. My body subsequently decided quickly to catch up, however. I slept on and off while the Gaspesie coast drifted by. Yeah, I think I'd seen plenty of that kinda coastline by then.
Meanwhile we stopped at every town, usually only pausing briefly. Apparently the cushy-comfy bus also acted as a parcel delivery vehicle. This was handy, at least for the locals, since almost all of the peninsula's population lived along the "highway" that looped the peninsula and embraced the coast.
Unsurprisingly for such a notably charming coast, there were beach houses and lighthouses partout... or beach houses with little miniature (fake) lighthouses in front of them. Those constructions must've been for... just in case, I guessed. Beyond those, there were still the (in)famous casse-croutes (snack shacks, complete with Quebéc's famous poutine dressing for french fries, a kind of "local's" gravy) and laitiers (ice cream shacks, always with a big cone sign or sculpture) lining the way. Seafood, fishing boats, and yards laden with crab and lobster traps made for much of the rest of the scenery. Very touristy-looking stuff: I was now officially in the Gaspesie.
Back to Québéc, New Brunswick, Maine Menu
Back to triptrumpet.com