Here I am, nestled in my sleeping bag, under a pile of plastic chairs in a storage/bathroom sharing space with a few leftover mosquitoes, and a couple hundred spiders. We’ve had some words exchanged over the past few hours with me getting up in their space, and we’ll see if things will escalate with some bites on me while I proceed to sleep in the next 8 hours. I’ve spoken to them in English, so I’m not sure they understand in the slightest, but these guys are big, black, and covered with designs on their back. Now, I’m not an expert in spiders, but typically all of those signs mean that they know what they are doing, and are HONGRY. I’m going to zip my bag up tonight extra tight and only leave a small hole for breathing. That is, unless I’m kicked out for my takeover.
It’s rained over 70mm today in the Pointe des Cascades, about 40km into the province of Quebec, and the forecast calls for 50-80mm overnight until the morning, before tapering off sometime mid day. Weather changes daily, so I will just take it as it comes and make my decisions at that point in time.
I’ve had a great set of days in the past little bit, leaving Kingston early Saturday morning, chuckling at the students still going, or doing the walk of shame (fame?) at 8am due to it being homecoming weekend in that nice little historical city. I miscalculated a bit on my projections and realized I had a 140km day ahead of me to get to my destination southwest of the capital of Canada, Ottawa. Luckily, the wind was at my back, the weather was nice and sunny, and I had a freshly loaded MP3 player blasting out new tunes I hadn’t head before which got me where I needed to be in great time, just under 7 hours. Wonderful landscapes of lush farmers fields, lakes, and small hills made this very enjoyable riding. I was lucky I stopped about 20km before my destination and plugged in some coordinates into my GPS – I would have rode right an important turn off 1km up the road so I felt lucky that someone was rooting for me in my corner. I spent the final 20km on an untraveled road and practiced riding without my hands on the handlebars, trying not to bail. I didn’t.
When I reached my destination, I was welcomed by two friends that I knew from Winnipeg, both separately through different avenues, but who have since become life long partners nestled in a small town called North Gower. Well, that being said, they are about 5km minimum from any sort of store, so they have get to reside in a log cabin in a nice little parcel of paradise doing what they do best. We shared some conversations over dinner and I was able to get some laundry in so I wouldn’t stink before we headed into Ottawa to go see a music act that I’ve been interested in since 1992. The outing was comical, it’s been some time since I’ve stepped foot in an all night dance party/rave and chuckled at some of the insanity that goes along with it. Needless to say I enjoyed myself hearing hard beats coming out of the many (25,000 watts per room?) speakers. I stayed out late, which had me sleep in until noon the next day – I needed it from the past couple of weeks.
We planned on doing a touristy day on Sunday and headed back into the city hoping to check out the Parliament building, however it was closed so opted for a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint – I had gone through the tour in the Winnipeg location where all the common coins are produced and was mistaken that the bills were done in this location – They are actually handled by the Bank of Canada. The tour was fun and an interesting look at what goes on in the process of making currency even though the workers were on their days off, still very informative. Silver lying around everywhere, some people need to learn how to keep their desks/offices clean
Due to our slowpokedness of the day, there wasn’t much to do other than have a bite to eat and enjoy a few drinks before heading across the bridge into the Province of Quebec to catch the last rays of the sun in Gatineau Provincial Park. Ottawa is nestled in a valley and this vantage point allowed for wonderful viewing of cities far away and great landscapes. Quebec also has the plus that you can buy beer at any time of the day, in most any convenience store, where as Ontario shuts down at 5 or 6pm – this is the future, not the past! The remains of the day were spent relaxing.
I was originally planning on heading out on the Monday to rendezvous in Quebec City this week, however plans have gone awry and it is no longer going to happen – So I decided to take it upon myself to take another day of rest and do some sight seeing. Back into Ottawa I went to go for a tour of the Canadian Parliament buildings. I just so happened to luck out and get in on one of the earlier tours without standing around all day and rather enjoyed this historical landmark of Canada that represents us. The library, still standing after a fire in 1916 was breathtaking, and I spent considerable time in the memorial chamber, paying respects to our fallen soldiers. Outside the building on Parliament hill there were great statues and monuments, squirrels running around everywhere, and a small cat sanctuary that has been in operation for a few decades with their own little houses – cared for daily by a volunteer.
I spent the rest of the day nerding out a bit, trying to plan upcoming weeks wondering if I should be going through Labrador or heading through New Brunswick as originally planned. Labrador is minimally traveled, and contains some of the harshest temperatures and wind that Canada has, but due to those points alone hold many pounds of appeal to me. It is feasible I could travel it in 20 days, giving room for weird weather getting in the way, but I am unsure if I have enough cold weather gear to support this at this stage. It is still up in the air and I’ll make my decision as soon as I leave Quebec City. It is incredibly ballsy, and while I’m not trying to do this to make a point, I do appreciate a good challenge here and there not to mention the extreme solitude to work out some kinks that are happening in my head at this stage. A few things are coming out of the woodwork from “Dave 1.0″ and I’m doing my best to deal with them in calm, effective manners waiting out things patiently as I just don’t have the energy nor desire to deal with things that will only stress me out. In some ways it is detaching me and making me become a bit of a grump.
Leaving the warm and friendly house (and saying goodbye to 2 wonderful cats!) I set forth in the general direction of east, knowing that sooner or later it will take me to where I needed to go. Rain coming down, I didn’t let it bother me, starting with a slight tinkle, before coming down in torrents, forcing me to stop at 2:30pm in a small town called Crysler in search of warm coffee and refuge. The owner of the store was very nice to give me complimentary coffee, power to keep my components charged, and helpful advice on routes. When I left 2 hours later, I realized I had lost my lighter earlier in the day, and she replaced it for me as well as giving me some ziploc bags to keep components dry. My GPS suffered a meltdown from the rain and wouldn’t power back on again – and when I plugged a battery into it, it just froze on the opening screen. This put me into a bit of a funk, frustrated a bit letting my other thoughts that I’d been holding at bay take over. My lighter, I had been holding onto for a very long time – actually the unit itself was new, but it had a little sweater on it, similar to a beer cozy that I’ve been carrying with me for many years, and one of the only things I had left from life before. I rode away hoping the GPS would fire back up and it did after I managed to press all 8 buttons on it at once. Phew! I rode another 30km before stopping in a small town called Monkland, finding a spot to camp out behind their baseball diamond. The trains passing through the night scared the shit out of me a few times, and some mosquitoes going for their last hurrah came at me while cooking my dinner. My stove was acting up again, not wanting to ignite, so I ripped the fuel filter out I put in a few days before, and it is back to normal. I’ll have to find a replacement as I am unsure of the long term effects of running without one.
In the next morning, I stumbled over to the restaurant nearby to get some coffee into me, I somehow ran out and used the time to plan my day. I headed east and crossed the Ontario/Quebec border at about 1pm and crossed into a whole other land. Immediately I noticed that there were marked bike routes, and people driving in cars would stop to wave or honk at me, which was a nice touch. The bike routes, known as “La Route Verte” are an impressive network of routes that can take one all over parts of the province, shielding them away from traffic, and offering some pleasant scenery. It is rated as the number one bike route in the world, and so far I can see why. Informative signs (if you can read french) offering maps on what is coming next, water fountains, and clean outhouses are spread out along the way making sure you can continue to enjoy yourself. I rode it for 40km before having to stop due to some pains that have been persisting over the past 6 days in my body, finding a campsite in an area known as Pointe de Cascades where the owner was nice enough to let me camp for free waiving the $30 nightly fee. He even said enjoy a hot shower. I took advantage of it and did some grooming, and started taking some things to fix what is going on inside my body. I’m suffering from extreme pains in my guts and intestines, and having serious difficulty dealing with waste management. I tried to find a doctor or hospital, but in this area I’ve had no success. I’ve since resorted to self medicating myself until I can find a proper place, hoping for tomorrow – Friday.
I packed up early ready to go this morning, anxious to get into the Montreal area unsure if I was going to stay and sight see or not until the rain came down. I met a local who has been living in the campsite for the summer who is preparing to move down to South Texas shortly and we exchanged stories. We’re in similar situations but with a vast age difference. He inspired me, and he stated that I did the same, so it worked out well and I wish him the best in his quest for happiness. I’ll likely see him again tomorrow, as I really haven’t left this little bathroom all day, and when 2pm rolled around I gave up on even trying to leave. I instead spent the day reading, planning future stops, fixing some long standing website issues, and relaxing. The weather is supposed to clear up tomorrow allowing me to continue forward.
Weather is going to be a concern quite shortly for the remainder of the trek across Canada and I now wish I didn’t send back my thermal underwear. I lost one of the legs to my pants so I’m down a pair of pants and can only assume things are going to get wetter and colder shortly. This month will be critical in terms of timelines, where I absolutely must get out of some of these areas in time before the snow comes down and freezes me in the location for a while. As much as I like Quebec so far, I’d also like to be not stuck in this province for long periods. So far my welcome has been nothing short of warm, but the language barrier will be a tough thing for me, even though I was once in French immersion and understand certain phrases, and sentences. I’m relearning it as I go, and I’m sure it will come back, but I would like to be a bit more east before the weather takes a huge dump. I have some commitments to deal with that require being on the east coast. October is nearly here – less than 2 hours and I’m now entering into the time where darkness is happening more than sunlight, and the earth starts to slow down, plants dying, animals hibernating, leaves falling. I better get some hibernating in so my day is good tomorrow – good night.