Today is day 180 of the trip, and a lot has changed since I left on that cold and rainy day in Vancouver. Well, it’s still cold as hell, and the days are about as short, but one of the most noticeable things is this gigantic growth happening on my face. One more month Dave, one more month. It’s going to serve its purpose when I head into the cold rainy days of the east coast, yet I may regret it when the icicles start to freeze on it. Will deal with that point when it happens.
Quebec has been wonderful to me so far in the 5 days I’ve been in the province. It’s been a total shift for me to put myself into an environment where my language is not the most common, but I am adapting well. My french language is coming back, and I spend considerable amounts of time while riding talking to myself in french, thinking of words and the translation from English to french, and finally working out rolling my r’s – something I’ve been struggling with since I first went into French Immersion in Grade 6, 21 years ago! I’ve been seeking out as much social contact as possible to assist in my learning and understanding of our French brothers and sisters of Canada, and have found some good success through the Couchsurfing website.
I don’t think I had been attacked by spiders throughout the night of my last post, and I arose early (6am) ready to get out and get on the road as I had arranged to stay at someones place 120km away. No problem for me typically, so I was on the road by 8:30am after a couple cups of coffee, cleaning up the area that I had taken over for the day and figuring out wh
ere I needed to go. When I was finished packing I noticed things were a bit astray, and some of my food that I had left outside was lying on the ground. Racoons obviously came sometime throughout the downpour and took off with some of my food – Enjoy it – I remember how voracious they were to grab my food a year ago when I was in California, and it reminded me to pay a bit more attention in areas where these guys are roaming around. While on the road, I rode more of La Route Verte, number 5 through small towns, some of which seemed like they were mostly English speaking based on the road signs, and hearing conversations of people as I passed by them. I ended up in Montreal in the south side, stopping at 11:30 and cooking a light lunch before trying to figure out how I was to get to my destination. I had it all planned out trying to stay out of the city center, but missed one of my turns and the next thing I knew I was deep in the heart of the city scrambling to get out, anxious to cross the St. Laurent river. I found a fairly unused bridge that got me across 75% of the way, putting me onto a very narrow island heading east for 7km before hopping on another bridge, that raised and lowered for ships to pass through. There were a few other cyclists waiting for it and I attemped to speak, and ended up waving my arms everywhere for the majority of the conversation. Once I made it through I headed east through small cities finally making it to my destination ‘Granby’ just in time for sunset. Total of the day was 137km, 17 more than I expected, but I was in good form, after a minor crash on the last 15km. I ate a pack of dry Ramen noodles and scooped Nutella into my mouth via my spork to get a quick little boost of energy.
I stayed with two sisters – I was initially intrigued by the fact they were heading to Africa next year by themselves, and wanted to learn a bit more about this journey. They were both in school for Special Education and were also hosting another woman for the past month who was visiting from Belgium, currently picking apples and getting ready to hitchhike down to Florida for the winter. I also met some of their friends and a young man who we got along real well and shared lots of laughs. I had the opportunity to practice my french, ask them questions about what the flying hell they were talking about, and specifically queried both the woman from Belgium and the women from Quebec on the differences between the french they both spoke – trying to figure out what the heck variant I was speaking. The conclusion – Some bastardized version of both. I stayed awake long after everyone had gone to sleep and had some ‘me’ time, in a warm environment finally shutting down at about 2:30am.
Waking up early, I planned to be on the road for 10am, yet the snooze button won me over and I lazed around the house until noon, thinking I might want to stay another day. Instead, I headed over to the grocery store and picked up some food for the next few days and set off waving good bye to my new friends from Quebec and rode easily 75km until it became dark to the city of Drummondville. I was searching for stealth spots to camp out at, yet found nothing and started thinking about the time I ran into some nice RCMP officers in Houston, BC. I went into the local police detachment, waved my arms around, and explained to the officer who didn’t speak much English that I was a traveller, yet the nighttime snuck up on me and was wondering if he knew a place where I could pitch a tent. He took my ID, and came back 10 minutes later, setting me up with a place to stay at the local Crisis center. I only wanted a tent, but this was wonderful – I was fed, provided a private clean room and great conversation by the workers. I was the only one staying in this facility that night (But wait until 1am they said) so it was peaceful. I went to sleep early taking advantage of this great resting spot.
On the road again this morning I had a decision to make, head east to Quebec City, or go and see someone north of where I was just outside of Trois Rivieres a city known for its museums and churches. I’m feeling pretty loose and aimless so opted for the longer route, putting me in Quebec City tomorrow on Monday night. I rode yet again another trail and bike paths going through small farming villages eventually riding my first hills of the province putting me into a very nice valley with lots of cows, lambs, and horses, anxious to see what was going on from this wheeled hairy imposter blasting music. The horses all run up to the fences real quickly and the cows generally just freeze. I’m also seeing a few stray cats running around some of the unpaved trails I’ve been on, and I take the time to talk to them, as I miss my cat dearly, likely the only thing I miss of the life I once had.
I’d have to cross another bridge over the St. Laurent to get to Trois Rivieres and was met by many signs stating that it was not passable via bicycle. I figured there must be a route that would get me there, and finally ended up at a ferry terminal, waiting for it to arrive. I asked a few people who were around fishing about the status and they chuckled to themselves finally telling me that the ferry stopped in 1967. This left me a bit frustrated that I couldn’t get over to where I needed to be, and I gave up eventually heading east to Quebec City making it only 10km before I was completely drained of energy. It was 5:30 and I had to start scrambling to find a place to stay. Stealth Camping is typically how I operate, but something about doing it in an area where there is a language barrier turns me off of it quickly. If I was to get busted I’d have to speak my broken French in very short time to defuse the situation and I don’t think that I’m quite capable of that yet. So I headed again over to the local Police station in the town of Gentilly, where it was closed. A bunch of youths were looking to speak to police so I made conversation a bit while we noticed someone leaving the building. I quickly rode over to him, and explained to him my story, and asked to setup a tent in the back of their building. He went inside, spoke to the other person working dispatch, and lucky for me this person, Simon spoke a bit of English. He explained his boss (the other officer) thought I was homeless, and agreed to let me stay there for the night – as long as I didn’t cause any trouble. I assured them that as a cyclist I’m too tired to get into any trouble and
explained a bit of my story. Simon said in words that were easy to understand that he admired what I was doing and that people thought of the police as stuck up people – but when the time was right for him to move on from being an officer to try something else to be happy he would do it. I gave him a card, and he shared me his contact information, so I will be sure to send this detachment a postcard in the future.
I came over to the local bar where women were laughing and having a great time, some dancing on the floor and some on the chairs and settled down to my first beer in Quebec. It was big, and cheap – another plus for this province. They seem to have the concept of being able to enjoy yourselves properly down pat, and I wish that other provinces would get their head out of their ass after experiencing some of the progression that is here.
I’ll head out early to Quebec City, the capital of the province for a few days rest, but am going to go there with no plans, no where to stay, and just wing it. I’m looking for a bit of chaos in my life, and this will force me to have more social interaction with people. If all else fails, I can pitch my tent. I won’t be in Quebec for as long as some of the other provinces, but so far, everything is great, and I’m glad I have got to experience it on this trip.