We left off on my adventure cycling across Canada when I arrived in Ottawa (The Road to Ottawa). A week at home to recharge the batteries and catch up friends and family was just what I needed – it was certainly very tough to leave – the comforts of home were very comfortable!
The adventure was not complete – next up – la belle province – Quebec. Time to work on my french, although, I have to admit, there were times when my rusty french came in handy. Arguing with french policemen may just well be one of those times! While I grew up in Ottawa and knew my way around well enough, once I crossed at bridge into Gatineau, I was like a fish out of water. Let’s just say – bicycles do not belong on major highways. Somehow, I ended up on Highway 50 – bicycles not welcome! It didn’t take long before a police officer pulled me over to read me the riot act! With broken french, I explained what I was doing and was redirected without incident to a quieter road. Welcome to the 148 – a much more pleasant cycling experience!
Police altercations aside, I made it to the Parc national de Plaisance for the night. The gate house was closed – I wasn’t sure if they were closed for the season or just for the night. Uncertain, I put my bike up on the curb, road around the gate and into the park. I figured I was in for a quiet night – once again, I figured wrong! Setting the tent up behind a fenced in enclosure, I was out of sight. Feeling quite alone, I became a little hyper sensitive to any noise – I didn’t want to be eaten in the night, never to be found again! (Funny how the imagination can run wild after dark). Sometime after dinner, after the sun had gone down, a set of lights slowly rolled along the park road. I will never know who it was – perhaps a park official had heard of a cyclist coming around the gates – but they never approached me, I can only guess that I was tucked in far enough so as to not be seen, or they saw the touring bike and left me alone. I was up early the next morning and out of the park – it still gives me a creepy feeling!
My next evening was planned – a night in the home of a friend of my father. All I had to do was give him a call late in the day to make sure he was home. I relaxed, the unease of illegal camping behind me, and rolled into the classic Canadian institution – Tim Hortons! Sitting at the table in the corner were my Swiss friends from cycling in Northern Ontario. Caughing up, we shared stories from the road and where the plans would take us next. With most of Canada behind us, all that was left was Quebec and the Maritimes.
At times, I can be quite easily distracted, and this turned out to be one of those times. A simple blink of the eye, and I had missed the turn off the 148 – the problem was that I didn’t realize my blunder until a few hours later. There was no turning around at this point – I had to regroup. The day was drawing to an end and I had no where to go. Once again, the universe provided. Standing on the side of the road, map in hand and trying in vain to figure out where I was, a young lady, fresh off of her backpacking adventures, stopped to offer to help. Before I knew it – we were walking back to her house with an offer of dinner with the family and a place to say! I have said it before – I will say it again – thank you universe!
Days were starting to get shorter, evenings a little cooler. I knew I was going to have to make sure I kept my distances up as I continued to cycle across Canada. The cycling through the region was gorgeous, and the fall apple harvest meant amazing apple cider stops at the orchards along the way. With daylight running out, I didn’t quite make it to Trois Rivieres. This meant I had my first opportunity to free camp behind a motel. The owner was more than happy to let me set up my tent.
I met back up with friends the next day, catching up with the Swiss again, as well as the young Quebec couple I met on the Prairies. After protesting, they threw my bike in the car to drive across the bridge to their family home. Turns out that this was another one of those stretches of roads that bikes were not allowed to cross! The family home was only 1 km on the other side of the Laviolette Bridge – important to remember when leaving as this is where I had run in #2 with the police! In order to go East from their home, I needed to traverse the 0.5kms to Route 132 which followed the water. I had no intention of crossing the bridge – but the police officer would have nothing to do with it! He tried to insist that I go back from where I came. Perhaps better french skills would have been beneficial. With much gesturing, I tried to explain to him that I was turning off before the bridge. I was half way to the road – which meant that I would be on the forbidden road for an equal amount of time. In the end, I think he just got frustrated with me and let me pass! He stood there and watched me pedal – there would have been no way I would have gotten my bike on that bridge had I wanted to!
After that, the road to Quebec City was uneventful. Quebec is one of my all time favourite Canadian cities, so I was more than happy to spend the night – what I was not prepared for was the climb from the St Lawrence up to the old city – my legs were just not up to the task! With too much traffic, I was unable to weave across the road as I tried to climb and was forced to walk. (Check out this video of the UCI Protour in Quebec – this hill is a killer! Imagine doing it with a fully loaded touring bike!) It was the only stretch of road I walked on the entire trip.
After Quebec, it was back to the South Shore of the St Lawrence and Route 132. With less than 100kms into my ride, my shifter stopped working. With the rolling hills and the full load – this was not going to be an option. Quite certain that there would be no bike shops around, I really was at a loss. Turns out, not far from where my mechanical happened, was the town of L’Islet sur Mer and the home of a fantastic little bike shop. Not only did they replace the snapped cable, but invited me to camp on their lawn! I was camping in paradise and couldn’t be happier!
My last day in Quebec was on the road to Riviere du Loup. I had really begun to find my relaxed cycling groove. The entire province was so bike friendly – I could not have been happier. Lunch became a more relaxed affair – I even broke down and had a couple glasses of wine! What was I thinking all those other days, grinding out the miles, eating grilled cheese and fries for lunch for more lunches than I will ever remember! Cycle touring lessons should include strict instructions to slow down and smell the vino!! By the time I rolled into town, camping had long since vanished from my mind. A quaint motel in town and life was set! Tomorrow would mark the final leg in the trans-Canadian journey – the Maritimes.
Bonjour Quebec – bike touring on two wheels
La Route Verte – Quebec