The next morning I was up early to start the trek to Québec City. It was about 120 km to my destination and I was meeting with my friend Margit who had driven up for the weekend to explore the city. I arrived at the hotel (which was graciously donated by my buddy Paul from the Huntington Society) within seconds of Margit's arrival around 4:30. We unloaded everything at the hotel and made our way to Old Québec where the Chateau Frontenac and many other even older buildings were located. Québec City is really a beautiful place. It's clearly a major tourist centre, but has a great atmosphere and lots of things to see and do. There are tons of buskers performing really cool acts on the street.
The next day was a day off - from riding at least - and we decided to take a tour of the city. We found a company that provides a cycle tour (pedicab) and I thought - cool! I don't have to do the peddaling and I still get to ride a bike! :). It turned out to be an awesome way to see the city and our cycling tour guide, Gabriel, was outstanding. After the tour we had some lunch in a little square that I could easily have confused with a small town square in France. We walked around the city some more to explore some more and found the Citadel - which is still an active Canadian military base. We got to see the end of the guard changing ceremony and then found a hoppin street with lots of restaraunts and people watching. During the tour Gabriel had suggested that we come back to the docks at 9:30 for a sound and light show about the history of Quebec projected on the large silos across the river. It was really cool! The presentation was created for the 400th birthday of Quebec City and will run until sometime in 2013. Arrive a good hour early to get a good seat! It was packed!
In the morning we got all packed up. Margit headed back toward Connecticut and I headed on toward Tadoussac. I was actually aiming to get to Les Escoumins where the ferry would take me across the river. The ferry left at 3:30 and I had a tight schedule if I was going to make it on time. It turns out that north of Québec City is quite mountainous and the wind was not cooperating again. I also got wind that a couple of my friends who I had met riding across the plains were close by, so I wanted to try and catch them. During the ride I had some great views and watched the landscape change as I rode. When I got to Tadoussac there were advertisements everywhere for whale watching excursions. I didn't take an excursion but I did catch a glimpse of a beluga whale in the bay before I got on the short ferry from St. Catherine to Tadoussac. I got to Les Escoumins at about 4:00 and, given I was too late for the ferry, I found a campsite close by and set up my tent for the night. It worked out well because I had time to do some laundry and get reorganized.
The ferry across the St. Laurence to Trois Pistoles was relatively small. I met a few people on the ferry from France and had a much easier time communicating with them in French than I had speaking with the French Canadians - the accent is really strong and my ear just isn't trained for it. Some I can understand fine, others not so much.
The ferry ride was about an hour and a half. This gave me some time to organize some pictures and post a short update to my website. I also reconnected with Meaghan and Toby via text messages and got the low down on their location. I was only about 20 or 30 km behind them. Arriving at the other side I got off the ferry and found that the wind was blowing very strongly in the direction that I hadn't planned on going, but Meaghan and Toby and his friend Dave had gone north, so I decided to go with the wind. Before setting off a couple approached me and asked what I was up to. We talked for about 20 minutes in French and I again gave out my card. Moving on, I first followed the "route verte" which is Quebec's designation for their extensive network of bicycle paths (Ontario could take some advice from Quebec on bicycle friendliness). This actually turned out to be a mistake because it took a winding steep trail through the trees on a mix of gravel and sand. I quickly headed back to the highway where I was able to sustain 35-40 km/h and finally caught up with the gang in at a grocery store in Rimouski, about 60km later. We picked up some groceries for dinner and the road and then headed in to Rimouski to get some lunch. It seems that my bike is getting heavier by the day as I get a more intimate relationship with food and making sure that I have a lot of it.
After a long lunch and visit we got back on the road. It was about 4pm by this point and I'm normally starting to think about a campsite. The others have a different approach - ride until dark and find free camping as much as possible. Prior to searching for a campsite we stopped to eat some food in an oversized chair we found at the entrance to a large garden. The weather was quickly deteriorating and the wind was brining in some rather ominous looking clouds. We rode until it was nearly dark and stopped along the river to ask a couple home owners about various patches of grass that looked campable. Everyone was very nice and recommended that we go in to the village to the little Auberge. In the mean time, Toby had scoped out a secluded space that appeared abandoned and had a sign that said "pas responsable pour les accidents" and "pas de toillet". He interpretted this to mean that camping was permitted - we camped :)
Meaghan and Toby really enjoy cooking and they put together a really delicious burrito meal. For dessert we put together some random things we had in our packs including pudding, bananas, and dehydrated apple crisp. What a feast! And all along the St. Lawrence river in the dark with the rain and our headlamps.
It was a quiet night and I got up early to see if I could make it to New Brunswick. The gang was planning to tour all of the Gaspé which would add a good 5 days on to the trip. Another time. So, I packed up and was ready to go before any of the others had stirred. When I was ready to go I asked who was awake. We took a picture and I bid them happy and safe travels.
Now that I was off course I needed to find a way back to my original direction. I decided to take what looked like the most direct route. This turne out to be a lot of work. At first the smaller side road was paved and pointed in exactly the directtion I wanted to go. Then it became a gravel logging road with a steep downhill. A steep downhill generally means there's a steep up hill on the other side. Turns out the up hill was steeper than the down hill. At the bottom there was a cute covered bridge concealing the steep uphill battel on the other side. At a couple of points I had to get off my bike and push it up the hill because I didn't have enough traction or go to keep it moving. The first couple of hours was a lot of climing. I stopped at a grocery store to get some food - because I had only eaten a granola bar to this point. I spent a bunch of time refueling. That reminds me, my tire pressure seemed to be declining yesterday and I had to pump it up a couple times - I wonder if it's good now...
After refueling the road came up beside a large river flowing in my direction. This is a good sign because it generally means the road will be downhill with the river. It was in fact downhill with the river for about 80 km right in to New Brunswick. I found the Welcome to New Brunswick sign and took a picture. 20km later I was in Campbelton at the provincial park setting up my tent.
It looks like a beautiful day today. Let'see where I end up tonight.