Day Twenty-Four.

Gaspé to Montréal to NYC.

Was it only yesterday I rode 50 miles from Percé to Gaspé? It was. And yet now I’m hurtling back the way I came. On a train.

Outside the Train

Outside the Train

Slept until about 9 at the Motel Adams then stayed in bed watching Looney Tunes in French for another half hour. Highly recommended.

When I did pack up camp it was different than before as I was no longer concerned with proper weight distribution as much as what I would check (vs. what I would carry-on) the train. Having that all decided I went for a (last?) coffee at the local Tim Horton’s and a donut glace l’erable (maple-glazed doughnut).

I walked around Gaspé for awhile in search of souvenirs and gifts but nothing much caught my fancy. I did pick up a cookbook and a few sweets.

Around 11:30 I checked out of the hotel and rode to the train station. The guy who worked in the ticket office, Nicholas, was the the goofiest Canadian I’ve met yet, but he was very helpful with getting me a ticket and a box for my bike.

Put the bike in the box (had to turn the handlebars in) and walked up the hill to the mini-mall, where I had surprisingly passable hamburger and terrible fries at a casse-croute (“Nic & Pic”). Tried to find a book to read on the train but no such luck. Headed back to the station and after a short wait it was time to board the train. It’s an 18 hour plus ride to Montreal. Then another 9-10 hours to NYC. So I’m in it for the long haul, but I’ll be back home in just over 24 hours.

Inside the Train

Inside the Train

Day Twenty-Three.

Percé to Gaspé.

Final day of biking. Awoke at the campsite in Percé pre-dawn, very cold. Even in my sleeping bag. Pulled on a long sleeve and my jeans and that helped a little bit but still shivered for awhile. The rising sun slowly warmed the tent and I fell back asleep for awhile.  When I woke again it was 8:30 and positively toasty inside the tent, though the breeze outside was rather quite cool, darlings.

Packed up and cruised down the hill toward Percé proper in search of breakfast and information on Bonaventure Island. Had breakfast at an outdoor table at some place called the Cafe Champetre– overpriced eggs, bacon, and toast, but discovered I actually like my eggs over-easy. So there’s one new thing I learned on this trip.

Percé was cool but touristy. I shopped around a bit for gifts for Meg & co, but it was the usual touristy seaside-town tchotchkes. I decided I had dallied long enough – Bonaventure was going to have to be some other time as I was ready to end the trip.

Perce Rock

The famous "Pierced" (Percé) Rock.

Immediately a huge mountain needed to be climbed just to get out of Percé. It was a grueling ten minute slog but I was rewarded with a panoramic view of mountain, town, and bay as good as anything I’d seen the whole trip. Suddenly I wasn’t so anxious for the end.

Big Mountain

Big Mountain, Hard Climb

View from the Top

View from the Top

The rest of the ride to Gaspé was pretty uneventful. I spent much of the time musing about the feeling of being on a bike- the ease of movement, the responsiveness. The commingling of man and machine.

I'd live There

I'd live there

I pulled into Gaspé about 3pm, hungry and tired. I had not much opportunity to eat as the road from Percé to Gaspé was pretty sparsely populated. I went to a very understaffed McDonald’s (noticed they had McPoutine on the menu) and then checked into my over-priced room at the Motel Adams. Did laundry, showered, shaved, and picked up some Quebecoise junk food to take back home.

Gaspé

At lasté, Gaspé.

The train leaves tomorrow at 3pm. If all goes as planned I’ll be back in NYC by the 27th.

Oh, impressions of Gaspé itself: A small northern crossroads type town. No exciting architecture or history that I can see- just a pass through type town. Percé had more going for it.

 

Day Twenty-Two.

Paspébiac to Percé.

Awoke around 8am and packed up everything. Hit Timmy Hortons for coffee and then checked out of the motel. The sun was shining but the breeze off the ocean was cool. The wind was at my back and I made good mileage.

Arty Shot of Port Daniel Gascons

Artsy Shot of Port Daniel Gascons

Stopped in Port-Daniel-Gascons to checkout their awesome train tunnel. Had lunch outside the tunnel. Chugged on.

Port Daniel Gascons Train Tunnel

The aforementioned tunnel, hewn into the living rock.

Rainstorms all around me made rainbows all over the sky in the early evening.

Rainbows

Well, well, well.

Bow of Rain

Damn, mommy. That rainbow is beauuuuuuutiful.

Camped near the cliffs in Percé. Might check out Bonaventure Island in the morning.

Cliffs

I'd live there.

Cold this evening. 40s.

Day Twenty-One.

New Richmond to Paspébiac.

Went looking for a bite before bed last night and it started to rain. Everything in the tent got wet. So lame. I had to jog back and managed to get the rain fly up before a thorough drenching. Still, though, lesson learned… Never leave a tent unattended without putting the rain fly up.

It rained all through the night. It stopped just long enough in the morning for me to pack up camp but I had to store everything wet. I figured I’d dry it out when the sun came out, which it never did, but I get ahead of myself.

I had enough time to ride into town and grab coffee and a chocolate croissant at a little coffee place. Since it was next to an IGA I figured I could pick up supplies afterwards and by then the rain might be done.

No such luck. The IGA was next to a mall, which I puttered around for awhile. There was a discount store, Rossy, which had a rain suit for sale–Cheap, yes, but it looked like it might work. I forked over the $10 and left New Richmond to brave the rain.

At first it worked well, but the rain grew abnormally intense. I rode hard, the wind was against me, the rain stung my face. I kept taking it to the limit, imagining the cars that passed gaping in wonder and admiration at my dedication. I cursed the gods, shouting, “Do your worst!” like I was Lieutenant Dan.

After ten hard miles I was completely soaked. I stopped at a “halte municipal” and dried out as best I could, hoping the rain would stop. It kept on. At times in gales. Finally, around 3pm, it gave up. I was glad to get moving. All the Quebecoise people kept giving me some variation of ‘bad day for biking’ which I had to keep asking them to translate.

Rainy Day

Rainy Day

The route, for the next 20 miles, was mostly unpaved roads. The bike, recently cleaned at the rest area, immediately got dirty again. Real dirty.

The rain kept threatening to start back up and it did drizzle from time to time. When I wasn’t worried about the rain it was great to be on those quiet country roads with the cool breeze blowing all around me.

A Pedestrian Bridge After The Rain

A Pedestrian Bridge After The Rain

I had pretty much decided a hotel was in order given the wetness of my gear and the fact that this was my sixth day in a row cycling and I had camped for the past five nights without a break. I would have liked to find a laundromat but ended up drying my gear via the fan in my room at the Motel Carroll, in Paspébiac. Got dinner at a cassé-croute (“snack bar”) — a burger saumon and poutine. It was food, but that’s about all I can say. These places serve pizza, chicken, burgers, fish, eggs, breakfast – you name it – but none of it is any good.

Looking forward to sleeping in a bed tonight.

Day Twenty.

Pointe-a-la-Croix to New Richmond

Day Twenty. Woke around 7:30. Foggy and wet again. Packed up camp amid a veritable swarm of black flies. I was an unhappy camper. I was in such a hurry to get out of there that I failed to fill up my water bottles or wash my face. The flies had won.

The Foggy Foggy Dew

The Foggy Foggy Dew

The weather was cool and overcast for most of the morning. Should have been enjoyable  but I was having none of it. I was focused on coffee.

After about ten miles I found a Depanneur, but the only coffee they had was from a Keurig machine. Typical Québecoise bullshit, I thought, and continued the search.

Bad mistake. Nothing showed up for another 30 miles. I was in a hate-filled daze the entire way. The scenery was nice, as I remember, but I could not focus.

Rickety Bridge

An extremely rickety bridge

When I finally did find a depanneur with coffee it was in Nouvelle, and there was little else going on in that town. Same for Saint-Omer and Carleton-sur-la-mer. I paused briefly in Maria and heard some impromptu karaoke at the beach. Two middle aged women doing something in French that sounded pretty good, actually.

I chugged along to New Richmond, mostly occcupying my thoughts with various calculations about the number of days, miles, and time left. I should never have given myself a goal- that was the mistake that I think is leaching some of the fun out of this trip. Oh well, without a goal I might have quit already, so there’s no telling.

Guy Condo for Chief

Guy Condo for Chief of Gesgapegiag

Anyway, found a campground in New Richmond via the ever helpful ‘information touristiques.’ Does America have these? They’re grrreat.

I took a closed road (“Rue Barreé”) rather than use the detour in New Richmond. This was the day’s biggest adventure as the road was really torn up. I had to lower my bike down into a couple 5-foot trenches and cut through a cemetery on the bay which I wish I could have gotten a picture of.

Finally I arrived at the campground just as it was beginning to rain. Rather than pitching my tent in the rain I used the time to take a shower and charge my phone in the bathroom. It was still raining after that so I called Meg and by the time we finished talking the rain had stopped.

Ate the last of my food, set up camp and called it a night by 7pm. I am a wild and crazy guy. Believe it like cheez-it.

Day Nineteen.

Lac Au Saumon to Pointe-A-La-Croix.

One begins to see the advantages of a larger tent. I would like to be sitting comfortably at a picnic table as i write this but I have been forced by a swarm of tiny biting black flies to retire to my tent as its the only place they can’t get me. Do bugs just love me more than other people? Is it my lack of campfire? My extra sweaty shirt? Am I just a weiner? Must be some combination of the above.

Today was one of the best days so far. Camping at Lac Au Saumon was fine. Noboy bothered me. When I woke everything was wet an I quickly realized the entire town was shrouded in fog. It was pretty chilly (It was only 6am when I woke) but once I got moving it wasn’t bad, and I didn’t really mind because the fog was giving the morning an extra peaceful vibe.

I rode into Causapscal feeling pretty great and had ham, eggs, an coffee at a restaurant there. (St. Jean? I’m getting all these saints mixed up.) The coffee was especially important as I was pretty damp from my fog jog.

After breakfast the fog burned off pretty quickly but I was on a quiet country road for awhile and the sun hadn’t gotten fully hot yet, so still nice.

By the time I returned to Route 132 it had gotten hot, dang hot even, but I didn’t really much notice because here was where the route began to follow the Matapedia river.

The river is a wide, shallow, swift channel that runs from Lake Matapedia (back in Amqui) to the Baie Des Chaleurs (where Quebec and New Brunswick share a border.) The valley it runs through has tall green mountains on either side which are covered in big pointy evergreens, and which fall away toward the river with sheer black cliffs, all dripping towards the river.

For miles I followed this route in wonder…no houses, no buildings, just hwy 132 and a few dedicated salmon fisherman (and women). It is a nature preserve and one of the highlights of my trip. If I come back to Quebec, it will be here.
When I got to Matapedia (the town) I was sad to leave the valley but ready for a rest. I ate at the Motel Restigouches an I am sad to report that my meal was sub par. I had a smoked pastrami on rye– passable, but overpriced. The real wonder were the frites — batter-dipped!? At first I thought I got onion rings by mistake. Weird. The soup was a water beef and barley.

The dessaud however was pretty awesome. A chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce liberally poured over it and a cold layer of ice cream in the center. A nice interplay of hot and cold. A+++.

By early afternoon the sun was murderously hot. I couldn’t bear to stan still in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes. But I did dry out my wet tent. Smart, always want a dry tent. Learned that the hard way.

The ride to Point-A-La-Croix where I am now camped was a short 22km and mostly painless. I definitely am noticing my legs lasting longer on hills before the pain, burning, lactic acid action starts up in the old muscles.

Since I got in to camp so early (around 4) I decided to take a quick ride back in to Point-A-La-Croix proper and check it out. Eh. I got some photos of the bridge to New Brunswick. Otherwise not too much to see.

Oh, one other interesting note. Within Point-A-La-Croix there is situated a small municipality, called Listuguj – they have discount cigarettes and indian artwork, just like in America. It’s a Canadian Indian reservation.

Day Eighteen.

Sainte Flavie to Lac Au Saumon.

I am camped (legally) in a park at Lac Au Saumon, just a few miles southeast of Amqui. There is what sounds like a dilly of a storm coming. Thunder, lightning, the works– moving in from the west.

Outside Amqui

Outside Amqui

I woke at the backyard of the Gîte in Sainte Flavie pretty late. Almost 8 before I got out of the tent. I guess that means my body is finally getting used to sleeping in a tent. Also that I was plumb wore out.

Heading south to Mont-Joli I got coffee at a Tim Hortons.

Holy shit. Some lightning just struck right behind me. Scared the pants off me. The weather up here is something else.

Ominous clouds

Ominous clouds

Anyway, after coffee I started south through the Matapedia valley. It was rough going at first. A lot of long, slow climbing and today has been one of the hottest days of my trip. I was pouring sweat for the first two hours. Finally, as I got to Sayabec, the terrain flattened a bit and the going was easier .but up til then I was having a hard time, honest.

In Sayabec there was only one bathroom and I had to go, but there was some kind of ride going on because I had to wait for three other cyclists first.

Finally reached Amqui around 2, I think, and ran into a guy with touring gear, Jean-Michel, and his girlfriend, Maude (pronounced ‘Mo’). They were doing three days around Lake Matapeia. He highly recommended Saguenay-Lac St. Jean. But no time on this trip, sadly.

At information touristiques they informed me that there was camping in Lac Au Saumon, that the may of Amqui really loves covered bridges, and that the most popular things to do in Amqui are salmon fishing and ATV.

The covered bridge I visited was pretty nice.

Covered Bridge in Amqui

Covered Bridge in Amqui

I stopped at Dixie Lee, a chain that advertises poulet pizza, and fruits e mer, and they had something on the menu called ‘croquettes.’ I understood this from the hostess’ description to be fried chicken, but alas, they were nuggets. Which I guess is a form of fried chicken.

Not very good nuggets, either. Not basing this on the Dixie Lee solely, but on my experience as a whole — if it ain’t breakfast, in Québec, it probably ain’t too good. I hope that the coming days prove me wrong.

The Eponymous Lac of Lac Au Saumon

The Eponymous Lac of Lac Au Saumon

After a couple hours in Amqui, I picked up supplies (read food) at Metro Plus and rode the thirty minutes to Lac Au Saumon. The only camping I could find were handpainted signs in a public park. The office was closed and locked and looked like it had been for awhile. A couple RVs are parked in the RV section, so I’m assuming it’s cool. I’ll let you know in the morning.

 

 

Day Seventeen.

Trois Pistoles to Sainté Flavie.

A lot of climbing today. Hard to believe I’ve been doing this 17 days. Slept late (til 7!) in the camp and took my time getting ready. Rode into Trois Pistoles and got a couple cups of coffee at a pretty amateur looking restaurant which I neglected to find out the name of.

The weather had started sunny but as I was ready to leave Trois Pistoles around 10am rain was threatening and little drops were falling. The wind was blowing hard to the east, which was good.

Parc National Du Bic

Parc National Du Bic

The rain never happened. The path I took, Le Littoral Basque, was marked as hilly on the map and it did not disappoint. It was a real fight but I finally made it to Saint Fabien and the worst of it was over. I celebrated with a breuvage. Then the road took me through “Parc National Du Bic”, a convergence of mountains and coastline. This was a really great trail. Steep at times but never killer and cool and shady through the forest. Plenty of stops along the coastline with great mountain views. Definitely the highlight of the day and highly recommended.

The only bad part was that the Route Verte has no signage in the park and the park trails themselves are poorly marked, so its easy to get lost. Which I did, a couple times, but really, the park was so nice I didn’t mind.

Rimouski

Rimouski

The park dumped me out about 15km west of Rimouski. More climbing along 132, but the wind remained strong and friendly. By the time I pulled into the city I was feeling really fried. I stopped at a subway to recharge my phone and myself, because I still have about 18 miles to Sainté Flavie. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I didn’t expect to get there until tomorrow, so I’m a day ahead of schedule. I am, however, physically paying the price. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier. I’ll officially cross over into the Gaspésie region tonight before I reach the campground. ***

Lighthouse outside Rimouski

Lighthouse outside Rimouski

Campground is a bit too strong of a word. It’s the back yard of a bed and breakfast literally right off the highway. But its cheap enough, I guess. The ride here was really nice. I was just riding along the beach as the sun went down over the river. The woman who runs the campground said the southern route through Matapedia valley was nicer, so that’s the way I think I’ll go. 7 days feels doable. Even after all today’s climbing I feel pretty strong. So tomorrow I say goodbye to the Saint Lawrence and head inland once more.

Day Sixteen.

St. Jean-Port-Joli to Trois Pistoles.

Sunrise on the Fleuve

Sunrise on the Fleuve

Awoke to sunlight spilling over the cliff. It was a sunny-but-chilly morning, around 61 degrees. Packed up camp, ate a small breakfast (bagel + mineola) and was out on the road before seven.

Route 132 was very quiet and I was reminded that mornings had always been the best parts of the trip, whether I rode through farmland in the sun or mountains in the fog, the main thing is that it’s just you, the wind in your ears and the bike silently slipping by while everyone else is asleep.

A popular spot to sleep.  Just after dawn.

A popular spot to sleep. Just after dawn.

After 12 or so miles I stopped at a Tim Horton’s for coffee and a donut. I don’t know wy, but the Québecoise really love their Tim Horton’s. They’re everywhere, and they are always busy. The coffee kicked in and the 80 or so miles from yesterday that I had been feeling all morning melted away. I was flying and kept up my usual pace from La Pocatiere through Riviere Ouelle, Saint Denis, Kamouraska, and Saint André.

Kamouraska

Kamouraska

Moose Crossing

Moose Crossing

Somewhere north of Riviere-Du-Loup

Somewhere east of Riviere-Du-Loup

The terrain here was spectacular. The mountains had been relatively distant in Chaudiere-Appalaches where I’d been the past two days. Now that I moved into Bas-St. Laurent, the mountains were directly to my right, the water to my left. And there was no gradual ascent- the plains butt right up against the cliffs and individual mountains rise out of the flat ground.

Off the beaten path.

Off the beaten path.

I was flagging as I pulled into Riviere-Du-Loup at 1pm, having about 60 miles on the odometer. That’s pretty good so I treated myself to yet another breuvage at Tim Horton’s and chilled for a couple hours.

The town was pretty suburban – your typical chain stores abound. I find these midsized towns are the worst to visit, but at least it’s easy to find supplies.

After picking up some edibles at IGA (not Maxi! Maxi sucks… no pret-a-manger.) I was feeling strong enough to do what I planned on being the last ten miles. I was planning on camping outside Cacouna, the next town over.

That’s not how things turned out though. Almost immediately outside Riviere-Du-Loup there was a flag-man. The road was torn up. He stopped traffic and I waited. After a couple minutes a tall guy with a loaded cycle pulls up next to me and says something in French. I reply in English and he translates – ‘The wind is nice.’ Which I notice is true, we’ve got a good tailwind. So we chat for awhile… (we’re being held an inordinately long time by the flagman.) His name is Herve, this is his first time in Québec too (He’s from Switzerland, the french part) and he’s going to Gaspé and back.

Finally the flagman gives us the go-ahead. The road is rough. Gravel and dirt, a little hairy but no worse than sections of the Route. I say, ‘That wasn’t so bad’ and part ways with Herve.

Trois Pistoles

Trois Pistoles

About half a mile down the road I see Herve walk his bike over some wet cement. The road is completely blocked to cars now and the only way through for us is through the active construction zone. We walk about 100 yards through the zone, past bulldozers and dump trucks… at times we’re forced to cut through people’s yards. Finally we clear the zone. Herve says, ‘Not so bad, eh?’ and waves goodbye.

The tailwind is so strong and I’m making great mileage without much effort. I decide to push on to the camp site at Trois Pistoles. By the time I pull in I have 95 miles on the odometer and 8 hours cycle time. That’s definitely a personal record.

Ready to camp.

Ready to camp.

I’m also dog-tired and tomorrow is going to be a lot of climbing, so bon soir, mes amis.

Day Fifteen.

Québec to St. Jean-Port-Joli.

Slept late at the dorms and didn’t get out of there until 10am. Hit up the coffee depot at the mall and tried o wait out the rain. Finally got on the road at 11am and took some pictures of Québec from the south shore.

Québec from Levis

Québec from Levis

My day off must have done some good after all because I made excellent time all morning and had 50 miles knocked out by 3pm. The Route was mostly paved, basically just riding the shoulder of 132 the whole way. So that didn’t hurt.

Kept running in to Silvano and Paola all day. Probably we should have rode together but I didn’t mind going solo. It rained off and on throughout the afternoon, occasionally it poured. I took shelter a few times…It never lasted that long.So far I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather.

The widening Fleuve-de-St.-Laurent

The widening Fleuve-de-St.-Laurent

Did about 80 miles today. I wanted to camp sauvage and save some scratch but I couldn’t find a good place. Eventually I just gave up and went back to Camp Demi-Lieux in St. Jean-Port-Joli and got a really choice spot, just on the banks of the St. Lawrence and with a great view of the sunset at the base of a cliff.

Sunset on the Fleuve

Sunset on the Fleuve

The trip sometimes feels like a bit of slog, but it’s calm, cool evenings like this that I came for.