Day 44 – July 21st -Trois Riviere to Quebec City – 135 kms
A much easier ride today, and not just because of the shorter distance. The tailwind happened, so my pedalling was light, for the first 60 kms anyway. A few rolling hills appeared after that, but nothing serious. The weather was pleasant until about noon when it turned muggy (in fact, it’s just started to rain this evening). I had a nice conversation with another cyclist at a McDonald’s that I stopped at for a “frosty shake!” He’s from Quebec City and had also stopped for a break. His English was about as good as my French, but you know what, we had a really good chinwag all the same – what language barrier?
Yes, the road was flat for the first 60 kms and I had that excellent bike lane all the way to Quebec City. The amazing thing is that I didn’t have one truck pass me! That’s got to be a record for this trip. The trucks all have to take the freeway, or “Autoroute” as it’s called here, which leaves only the local delivery trucks allowed on 138. But of course today was Sunday, so no deliveries I guess? The whole way from Trois Riviere to Quebec City was one village blending into another with the St. Lawrence Seaway almost always visible to my right. I managed to find that convenient roadside cafe for my second breaky, unlike yesterday when a Subway sandwich had to suffice. Lots of farms today too, together with lots of roadside fruit and veggie stands, I just had to get some fresh strawberries to munch on whilst riding – yummy!
Sunday was a good day to enter the city too, with minimal traffic, I could correct a few directional blunders easily. But my God this city is hilly! Some of the side-streets are barely rideable with a loaded touring bike. I was very fortunate to snag a private room at the hostel here for two nights. The cheapest hotel (so I was told) in the walled city centre where I am, is somewhere in the region of $135 per night – and that’s nothing fancy either! What a fantastic city though. I’ve just done a quick tour for now, but it reminds me of York in Yorkshire, England, as far as the walled city concept. But otherwise its outdoor cafes, stores and streets have a definite European flavour with some fantastic architecture evident too. Just choc-a-bloc with tourists as well – Another Victoria, BC at the height of the summer! But, I think on a larger scale.
I managed to find a pub around the corner from the hostel that serves William Younger’s Tartan Ale – What a treat! – Good food too! Many more English speaking people here too – a pint, is a pint, is a pint – in any language though, it seems!
I can see that I’m going to enjoy my day off here tomorrow. My room at the hostel has a bunk bed, so Basil gets his own bed for a couple of nights – he wanted the lower bunk, but I put my foot down to that idea!
Day 45 – July 22nd -Rest Day – Quebec City – 0 kms
Day 46 – July 23rd -Quebec City to Riviere Ouelle – 135 kms
What a fickle weather day! Yesterday was hot and very humid in Quebec City, and walking up and down all those hills in the old town, made for the need to refresh myself constantly, ahem! Anyway, with the high humidity, a storm was definitely brewing and around 7:00 p.m. last night, we had a beauty. Thunder, lightning, and rain by the bucketful for most of the night. So I figured that the storm would have cooled things off a bit by this morning, but it was still drizzling rain (and still a little humid) as I was packing the bike outside the hostel. But the sky became darker and darker, then the rain started and just poured down. I grabbed the bike and pulled into the small entrance alcove of the hostel and watched the rain pour for almost an hour, wondering whether I had been too hasty in checking out so early? Thankfully, it petered out a bit, so I made a mad dash down to the ferry which was to take me across the river to Levis. I just made it before it was due to leave at 7:00 a.m.!
It was only a ten minute trip, but the rain started again as I left the ferry and rode on the bike path out of town. I met a fellow cycling there who offered to lead me out to highway 132 – such gentlemen, these fellow cyclists! He was commuting to work, but the problem was that this fellow was a no slouch, hence I had to really pedal my arse off to try and keep up with him. I struggled along until he, thank God, had to turn into his place of work. He also spoke very little English, but I thanked him in my broken French and he gave me a big grin – probably thought that my sweating and panting were funny!
Anyhow, after my quick workout the rain was spotty, but a nice tailwind developed as I pedalled east along Highway 132 and it felt great to be speeding along. I reached my second breaky stop at Montmagny a lot sooner than I had anticipated. What was really nice was that by the time that I inhaled my food/fuel, and picked up some bananas at the grocery store, pardon me, Le Marché, the sky was breaking up and the sun was trying to peek out. I rode for a few more klicks and that bloody wind did a 180° on me and stayed there for the rest of the day! We were not amused! Really strong wind too, coming straight off the St. Lawrence River.
Highway 132, like the 138, also had an excellent shoulder, at least until L’Islet, where it disappeared. However, light traffic and virtually no trucks still made it a good cycling route – pretty flat too. Highway 132 runs up the west side of the Gaspe Peninsula and the St. Lawrence widened considerably as I rode further eastward along the shore. Once again, there were many villages to pass through and there were many artisans and antique stores on the route to rubber neck at. Some of the sculptors/carvers were working right at the roadside too! In addition, this was an area of numerous dairy farms, many of which had their own outlets, with guess what? Home made ice cream! Believe me, you can’t buy stuff that good in the supermarket stores – deeeelicious!
Tonight, I’m camped at a campground right on the shores of the river, it was a 4 km ride off the highway to get here, but well worth it. Apparently, the Tour du Canada crowd stay here on their bicycle trek across the continent – at least that’s what I was told. Rumour has it that they’re due here in a couple of weeks time.
Tomorrow I was going to take the 289 into New Brunswick, but after some discussion with a couple of cyclists at the campground here, it seems that the 185 is a better route for cycling, so I may have one more night in Quebec – we’ll see what the wind gods bring tomorrow!
Day 47 – July 24th -Riviere Ouelle to Cabano – 125 kms
A different day today; wind-wise the opposite of yesterday. This morning for 65 kms I had to ride into the same headwind that I left on the road yesterday. But when I turned onto Highway 185 at Riviere du Loup, the wind was then to my advantage. Just as well too, because no more flat coastal road, the hills started right in the town, and what hills too! Some of the city streets reminded me of Quebec City. I checked out “Le Petit Temis” bike trail, which runs from Riviere du Loup to Edmunston in new Brunswick, but it was very dusty and Basil didn’t like all the bumps, so we opted for the smoother highway! The highway’s probably hillier than the rail trail, but the grades on the highway are pretty easy though, just low grade long hills. Also, I think that from here the road is mostly downhill tomorrow into New Brunswick – but I’ve been wrong before! We’ll see! Regardless, it was much nicer to finish the day with a tailwind rather than a headwind.
The 185 is the TC highway here and will change to Highway 2 when I cross the border into New Brunswick. After Edmundston, I should be able to get off the TC and away from the bulk of the traffic.
Despite the headwind, it was sad to leave the quite country roads that I have ridden for the past few days. Some of the villages that I have passed through are really picturesque and well maintained. The views over the St. Lawrence were something special too, constantly changing, views of the opposite shore gradually receding, cruise ships and freighters heading out to sea or returning to the Great Lakes. Lots of islands too – more than I thought there would be.
I’m in another nice campground for the night; Quebec campgrounds have all been very pleasant, most have pools, clean showers, the washrooms are clean, the sites are well maintained – Ontario and some of the other provinces could learn a thing or two from Quebec! The last two nights I have received a special discounted cyclist’s rate too – c’est magnifique!
Well, I hope that the 185 continues the way it has been today, I’ve had a six foot wide shoulder to ride on, so even with the trucks whizzing by, it wasn’t too hard to take. I’ll be in New Brunswick tomorrow and have another time change to contend with – I’ll be on Atlantic time; does that mean that I’m getting close to the Atlantic Ocean???
I just met a young fellow here who’s cycling to PEI from Quebec City, so I’m off to chat for a while…
Day 48 – July 25th -Cabano to Grand Falls, NB – 131 kms
I thought that yesterday morning’s ride was somewhat cool, because even though the sun was out, riding into that north-east wind made me keep my windbreaker on until somewhere around noon. So why did I mention yesterday? Because this morning it was bloody freezing! I thought that it was chilly during the night, so I zipped up everything I could, and was warm and toasty in my sleeping bag. But when it was time to get up at 5:30 a.m., can you believe that it was only 5°C outside! Talk about a cold start to the day, and the sun was out too! Cabano must be at a slightly higher elevation or perhaps it just lies in the cold pocket of a valley or something. Regardless, I had to wear my arm and leg warmers for a while when I started to ride, that’s a first, and Basil’s teeth were chattering for quite a while too! I can tell you that the hot oatmeal was very welcome this morning!
I started out on TC 2 this morning, but after 10 kms at Notre Dame du Lac, I came across some major road-works. Both sides of the highway were down to two narrow lanes, with absolutely no room to cycle at the side, resulting in a very close relationship with the big trucks! I could read the fine print on their tires as they rolled by! After two of those, I decided that I’d had enough; it was time to either take the lane – and really piss them off – or walk in the loose dirt of the construction lane. Fortunately, at that point, there was a turn off into the village, so I bailed out and headed for an access to “Le Petit Temis” rail trail. I must have seen a bad portion of it yesterday, for it really is one nice trail. It was a bit dusty, but otherwise really good riding. I rode in peaceful and quiet surroundings along the shores of Lake Temiscouta. I cycled across some small trestles, which brought back memories of riding the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in BC. In fact, it was so nice that I rode it the rest of the way to the border, about 35 kms. I let my mind wander and imagined myself on the train that used to run on the steel that once lined this route many years ago – just like the KVR – what a great trip it must have been; but we’re all too busy for trains nowadays! OK, that’s enough nostalgia!
Anyhow, I got off the trail at the border for two reasons – one was that I spotted a restaurant that I was sure could fill my void, and the other reason was to visit the welcome centre and grab a new accommodations guide for New Brunswick.
From there, I had to ride on the TC for a few klicks until I turned onto 144, which is the old highway – good for me, as no trucks are allowed on the secondary highways – except for local delivery carriers. What a nice quiet road with a wide shoulder. Nice valley vistas, and very close at my right, I had the St John’s River, the CPR tracks (I haven’t seen the tracks or a train since Ontario) and also very close by, the border to the State of Maine runs the same course. Actually, I’ll be following the river all the way to St John’s, NB and it’s destination of the Atlantic Ocean.
The roads in NB are a similar arrangement to the Quebec routes, in the way that they have built the “Autoroutes,” or major highways running parallel to the old highways. The old highways are almost devoid of heavy traffic now, and make great cycling routes. Highway 144 ended about 8 kms from Grand Falls, so I had to ride the TC 2 for that stretch. Tomorrow, I pick up another “old highway,” the 105, which also runs parallel to the TC.
Once again I passed through some nice villages, and for the last few days I’ve been passing through “Saint this” village and “Saint that” village and a certain little beaver’s been getting quite peeved! Today, I made his day as we rode through “St. Basile,” in New Brunswick, no less! Basil was quite chuffed!
Grand Falls – the falls are rather puny, but the canyon is spectacular. The campground that I’m staying at is the municipal one which is pretty well in the centre of town. My campsite is at the rim of the canyon, what a great view and for only $5.00 too!
Even though I’m well out of Quebec, there’s still a lot of French culture and language here in this part of New Brunswick – it’s a favourite haunt of the travelling Quebecers. In fact a couple of young ladies from Quebec (car touring) have just pitched a large tent in the site adjacent to mine – they were reading the instructions as they set it up! Then they proceeded to inflate a huge double air mattress and wrestle it through the doorway of the tent! Fun to watch! Anyhow, they came over for a chat after that struggle and were quite impressed with the compactness of my camping set-up all hauled by a relatively small bicycle. They had just set out today with their brand new tent and a car full of other new camping equipment – like I hadn’t guessed – everything was shiny and new! They berated each other on how they could have managed with a much smaller tent – “like yours,” they said, pointing to my little tent. But I told them, if I was car-camping then I would probably opt for a bit more space too. Both young ladies were very pleasant, but one of the girls was not very talkative – her English was like my French – but the other girl told me of their plans to also tour the Maritime Provinces over the next few weeks. “Perhaps we’ll meet again,” I said as we departed to our allotted sites – never was a truer word spoken in jest!
By the way, it did get much warmer today after that cold start, I hope it’s not like that again tomorrow morning, brrrrr!
WE BOTH CYCLED X-CANADA EXACTLY IN THE SAME TIME! You left Sidney on June the 8th, 2002 and so did I, but from Calgary! And you even took the same ferry route from North Sydney to Argentia (and not Port-aux-Basques). It took me 47 days and 6430 kms though 😉