Friday, July 18, 2008

July 14 - 17: Last days on the Fleuve St. Lawrence

July 14 - 100 km to St-Jean-Port-Joli
Today was a fantastic day of riding along the south shore of the St. Lawrence - with a nice flat road, clearing and getting sunny weather, and a (at times stiff) tailwind. And, I should add, that today was officially my arrival on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, a pretty great milestone. I say this because after Ile d'Orleans the St Lawrence becomes tidal and brackish, so coming over the main hill after Beaumont (under the power lines) you get the first great view of the river opening out between Ile d'Orleans and the south shore, which is the first view of the "ocean", and then today we were cycling along the water and at our campsite, which is right on the water, I went down to the water and splashed in the ocean. Yay!

Today was also fantastic for meeting other touring cyclists : first and foremost, we met Don from Cranbrook who is cycling from Ottawa to Moncton. He is taking a great leisurely tour and we have been riding together all day and now we're camping together. Then we chatted with Pierre, riding from Montreal to who-knows-where, who passed us twice more during the day, who was riding with very little gear and staying at hotels. Then two pairs of tourists from Quebec who were about five minutes apart, Gilles and Rene and another couple we didn't get the names of, and finally I chatted with two great young guys named John and Luke, who are from Ottawa and riding from Vancouver to PEI. They left May 22 and took the Trans-Canada most of the way, and are now "slowing down a bit!" in their words.

Most of these towns along Highway 132 on the south shore are fantastic little towns with the usual 2-or-300-year-old church with fine little houses lining the road, and the views for much of the day of the river, hills inland, and mountains across the river are quite lovely. After our big breakfast at the B+B we only stopped for a light lunch at Montmagny, at a park next to the lovely waterfall there, and a few light snack stops, and otherwise just stopping at interesting spots (and to talk with the cyclists we see). We also stopped so Mike could check out the motorcycle museum in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. The town is stuffed with artisans and shops of various stuff, and is very pretty (as the name implies).

Tomorrow we'll hopefully get past Riviere-du-Loup (River of the WOLF!!).


July 15: St-Jean-Port-Joli to Rivere du Loup (Mike and Mary), L'Isle Verte (Mark) 127 km 7 hrs on the bike

What a perfect morning -- fresh air, low humidity, a booming west wind to help us go east, sunny, but not hot, and a bike route along the shores of the St. Lawrence. It is hard to get better than this! It is great to be back alongside the sea -- it feels like home. Last night, as I was up for my nightly p&p (pee and perambulation) I was surprised to get my first smell of saltwater tang and see my first tide in over 69 days. Our campsite was right on the St. Lawrence shore, and the water was lapping up against the rocks just below the tent --reminded me of Sombrio Beach!

Today we kept as much as possible to the Route Verte, but it did disappear in a few place. After a fine 2nd breakfast we rode along an off-road path through the estuary of the Ouelle river. Fireweed, loosestrife, primrose, yellow buckwheat, and red elderberry bushes bent over with berries lined the route. Bird song of course -- our old friends the red-winged blackbird, and in the distance, in the forest, the white throated sparrow. Limestone outcroppings (at least I think that is what they were) made the afternoon landscape interesting and different.

We easily rode through the big town on our route - Riviere du Loup. But, on the way out, trouble struck. We were all travelling though the town of Cacouna, on a very bumpy section of the 132 highway. We were going downhill at a high speed. Mike and I were behind when Mike hit a pothole. At this point, his rear rack (it holds most of his gear) sheared off right at its attachment to the rear axle of the bike and lodged in the spokes of the rear wheel. Luckily none of the spokes broke -- but, Mike had to have a new rear rack. I took most of the heavy items from his bike and he jury-rigged the frame so we could limp back to Riviere du Loup.

Mike and I got a place at the Riviere du Loup muni campsite and set up. Then it was off to the far end of Riviere du Loup to the Canadian Tire to see if they had a rack. No joy there. We will have to wait until tomorrow morning at 10:00 to see what the bike store has.

Meanwhile .... Mark is wondering what the hell happened to us! Luckily we had the cell phone, Cathy in Victoria, and a very helpful campground in L'Isle Verte. The campground let Mark call Cathy long distance for free (I had called Cathy earlier and apprised her of the situation, so she could tell Mark). Also, Don (who was travelling with us on this day) was able to call and I let him know the situation. With everyone all squared away, Mike and I settled in for a good night's sleep.


Mark here: meanwhile Don and I stood around at the side of the highway for about an hour chatting until we figured something must be up, so, we being closer to the next town than Riviere du Loup, Don cycled on to L'Isle Verte to find camping and a phone while I sat by the side of the road. I was dolled up in rain gear so I put on my bug hat and sat while the mosquitoes vainly tried to find a way in to bite me - unsuccessfully, for once. Don came back in about 30 minutes, he found the camping and phoned Mary and came back and got me, and we, much relieved to find out M+M were OK, went on to L'Isle Verte to camp.

And boy did we get rained on at the camp! Holy schlamoley we got the hugest 10-minute blast of rain there ever was - Don was totally soaked, thank goodness we got our tents up in time, all it did was water down our dinner.


July 16: Riviere du Loup (Mike and Mary), L'Isle Verte (Mark) to Parc du Bic 72 km (Mark) 95 km (Mike and Mary)

I spent a nice morning eating breakfast on the quay in L'Isle Verte and exploring the town while awaiting Mike and Mary to show up - they successfully found a bike rack in Riviere du Loup and installed it, and then met me at L'Isle Verte at noon. Don meanwhile had taken off after breakfast so I bid him adieu - if you're reading this Don, hope you had a great trip!! I met another touring cyclist, Jeff, who I had exchanged greetings with in the camping at L'Isle Verte the night before - he was the only other camper along with Don and I. Jeff, who was from Montreal, was cycling from Riviere du Loup, up the north shore to Tadoussac, and then across the ferry and down again.

Then we set off for another gorgeous day cycling along the St Lawrence - despite a small spatter of rain it was mostly excellent, with the road away from the coast at times in a lovely valley near the river. The scenery was lumpy limestone hills - Cathy they were much like the mogotes near Vinales in Cuba - and pleasant farms, and we passed lots of walkers on the road. We learned later in Trois Pistoles that this is a pilgrimage route that lots of people walk, from somewhere I can't remember to somewhere else I can't remember.

We camped at the "National" Park of Bic (Quebec calls all its provincial parks "national") and I had time to do a nice hike around a couple of the bays, where I saw some seals.


July 17 - 117km to Val-Brillant on Lac Matapedia

This morning I met Byron from Magog, who is cycling from Halifax to Montreal, where he will work for a month, and then go on to Vancouver - go Byron! Byron was carrying the most gear of anyone I've seen so far - he must have 150 pounds of stuff.

And then, later in the day, we met Felix on the road, who is doing a very cool bike tour: from Montreal up the south shore, then a ferry to the north shore, and then he will ride north to the very end of the road, near Labrador - very studly. We met him fixing a flat, and then later on we saw him fixing another flat with help from our friend Don, who we'd last seen yesterday morning. But we left Don behind again as he wasn't going as far as us today.

As for the riding, another gorgeous day, our last in fact, along the St Lawrence - Rimouski has an excellent bike path along the downtown waterfront, and then north of town the bike route follows a lovely coastal road, all old mills and old farms, along the water past Pointe-au-Pere where the pilots for the St Lawrence were stationed, and where the tallest lighthouse in Eastern Canada is (pay admission, didn't go in). Finally we left the river (now ocean) behind at Saint Flavie and climbed up to Mont Joli into the Gaspesie region proper- a few more climbs, a few more small towns, and we were cruising down towards the Matapedia Valley region, which we'll follow all day tomorrow to THE NEXT PROVINCE!!! namely New Brunswick.

We are camping at Val-Brillant, right between the lake and the lovely twin-spired gothic church, and the camping lady is very nice and practised her English a lot on us. Also they have an unsecured wireless network so we'll hopefully upload all this in the morning. Great sunset too!



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