Sunday, July 31

Taking it easy in Charlottetown

I have not had a rest day since Quebec City (8 days and about 1100km), so we are going to take a rest day here tomorrow and do a bit of sight seeing. It was kind of a short ride today, so we got in at a reasonably early time and saw a bit of Charlottetown today. It is not a huge city, only about 65,000 including the surrounding area. But there is a downtown area with restaurants and pubs that we explored a bit. We found PEI’s only prewpub and tried out some of their products – best beer we’ve had since leaving! I have to say that once we left BC it has been a bit of a wasteland as far as beer goes (not that we’ve been looking too hard though). Everybody has the same stuff on tap – “Canadian, Blue, Coors Lite, and Rickard’s Red.” I guess we’re spoilt by the microbrew industry in BC. Anyway, we sure enjoyed this place!

PEI farmland

Once you get onto the PEI side, the scenery changes once again. The soil really is quite red – and it must be excellent for crops since almost the whole island is farmland. The island is dotted with tiny little towns. The ride was very pleasant – nice road condition and a few decent hills to make the ride interesting.

Bridge to PEI

The bridge onto the island was really impressive. You are not allowed to ride a bike onto it, unfortunately, but I can imagine that the winds would be pretty insane. You could see the bridge for quite some time coming from the New Brunswick side, which is where this photo was taken. It must have been very interesting to watch it getting built. You do not pay to go across onto the island, only to get off, and the fee for both the ferry and the bridge is the same – about 40 bucks. We took the bridge to get on, and will take the ferry off to Nova Scotia after a day of rest.

July 31- Cap Pele to Charlottetown (PEI)

Bike log: 105.0km, 666m of vertical, avg. speed 29.9 km/h

We’re in PEI – really we are! Pay no attention to the missing sign at the welcome greeting, just look at the red soil. We took the confedartion bridge onto the island this morning, and the first thing you have to do when you get on is to go through a maze of very tourist-trappy stores. “Quick! Tourists are here! Get their money before they leave the island!!!” The old welcome sign is located just pass there,but maybe they took it down since by this point they figure people have been welcomed enough just by stopping and buying some Anne of Green Gables memorabilia. Or maybe the budget for keeping up the welcome sign went into the construction of the tourist village. Oh well, maybe I’ll get a photo at the ferry on the way off.

Saturday, July 30

Gagnon Beach Campground

I wanted to get as close as possible to the bridge to PEI today, making for an easy day tomorrow. The closer the better in case the weather is bad in the morning! We were fortunate to get a tailwind for almost the whole day, and it was a good thing too because we had to cover more ground than expected. This is a very popular tourist destination, and since it is a holiday long weekend most campgrounds were completely full. We were planning on staying in Shediac (or Parlee Beach Provincial Park) but all campgrounds there were full. The people at the tourist information centre in Shediac mad several calls for us and finally found us the last spot at a campground at Gagnon beach. One of many campgrounds not listed in our guidebooks! Anyway, it is in a fantastic location with a private beach on Northumberland Straight. The water is warm too – we went swimming upon arrival! It is very shallow, and there are sandbars that you could walk out to. It was still quite windy, and there were kids flying these cool kites. Very festive place, much nicer than some of the parking lot style campgrounds we passed by in Shediac.

Number 100

Today was a milestone of sorts. I passed my 100th wheel bolt lying on the road. At least, it was the 100th since I started counting. Sometime a while back (I think in Saskatchewan) I started counting these things to help pass the time. I get a little bit of a thrill when I pass one. Sometimes I can’t remember exactly what number I was on, but I’m pretty sure this is number 100.

I always wonder how the bolt got here. Did it fly off a moving vehicle? Or did someone forget to put it back on after changing a flat tire? Both seem unlikely, you’d think you’d notice either way. Or maybe someone is driving down the road with a big bag of these, hurling them at cyclists? A mystery for sure.

July 30 –Bartibog Bridge to Cap Pele

Bike log: 165.0km, 616m of vertical, avg. speed 31.1km/h

A good solid day’s effort today. We were on highways pretty much the whole way, which meant there was not too much scenery (other than trees and moose warning signs), but we did cover a lot of ground. The traffic was not bad at all, being Saturday. Yesterday we were on a secondary highway, but as I mentioned it was not particularly scenic as it is not close enough to the ocean to afford views, and people were speeding pretty bad on it anyway. So we figured today we would just take the main highway (highway 11) the whole way, and all in all it was fine.

There was a giant lobster in the “lobster capital of the world,” Shediac. I couldn’t resist the photo, as no doubt millions before me have as well.

Friday, July 29

The cliffs of Clifton

There were some really interesting cliffs near Cliffton, a well named town! The seagulls liked them too.

I have noticed the famous “maritime friendliness” as people here are very chatty and friendly. Today as we were filling the van up with gas we were chatting to the attendant, and he mentioned that he had just been to Hope, Cheryl’s home town, last year. He was out visiting some friends, who live in Hope had their summer home across the street from where we were filling up! Cheryl did not immediately recognize the name but no doubt the degree of separation is small as the town is not big.


We passed through a number of tiny towns this morning as we set out – Clifton, New Bandon, Grande-Anse, Pokeshaw. It looked like there was some farming around, but also some of these places were once (maybe still?) fishing villages. I did not see too many fishing fleets but the maritime feel was definitely there. Some of the towns did not consist of much more than a general store, a few dozen homes scattered about, and a church! Some of the churches were small and cute…

...while others were massive and daunting!

I guess some towns had more money for the construction of the church. If you had a 100 years to do the trip we are taking, you would have the time to find out the story behind every interesting thing you see.

July 29 – Janeville to Bartibog Bridge

Bike log: 149.8km, 500m of vertical, avg. speed 28.8km/h

Our scenic detour along the north shore of New Brunswick was well worth it, and I am glad we took it. The stretch of highway leading east from Bathurst to Grande-Anse was definitely the most scenic part of New Brunswick that we’ve seen so far. I am sure there are other excellent parts to the province, but getting a road that is close to it, with decent views, and is in decent shape with not too much traffic is a tough combination! It was only about an hour of peddling this morning, and then we headed south along the eastern coast.

From there on, it was much less scenic – basically a straight, flat highway through the woods. I had the weird sensation (I’ve had this before) that I wasn’t getting anywhere because the scenery did not change. The road was populated the whole way, and the towns were quite small – more like the density of homes increased slightly near the towns but the houses never stopped coming. It was also a headwind the whole way, which never helps! But the road was in very good shape, with a nice shoulder to ride on, and the weather was near perfect. All in all, a tough day but still enjoyable.

Thursday, July 28

Quebec across the water

I am learning the geography of Atlantic Canada well. I never realized that the coast of northern New Brunswick goes so far out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence! All day today we were looking out across the water towards the Gaspe penninsula. Tomorrow we’ll cut in a more southerly direction.

Rest stop on the shore

We stopped here for a picnic, it was right beside a little marina. I have renamed this place “Unfavourable Wind Change Harbour” in honour of the fact that I had a tailwind all the way here, but it changed to a headwind from here on out. We also broke six eggs by mistake. The sandwiches, however, were delicious.

Home on the water

We are doing a minor scenic detour, keeping to the northern New Brunswick coast for an extra 30km or so, and then cutting south. It is really beautiful along this coast, and today was ideal weather to see it in. Sunny and warm, but not too hot. It seems that most of the waterfront area is populated, although in places sparsely so. There are little (former?) fishing villages along the coast, and the houses have that distinctive Atlantic look to them.

This is Acadian country. As luck would have it, today is the 250th anniversary of the deportment of the Acadians from what is now Nova Scotia. Many of those people settled in this area and still remember their heritage. It seems that this part of New Brunswick is very bilingual, we are still hearing lots of french (and speaking a bit too).

July 28 – Dalhousie to Janeville

Bike log: 107.8km, 451m of vertical, avg. speed 31.2 km/h

Didn’t cover a huge distance today because we got off to a really late start. The band played kind of late, and there were people milling about until even later, and that combined with the hour we lost due to crossing into the Atlantic time zone meant that we were not on the road until after noon! We are also a bit limited with camping options (once again) due to sparseness of campsites. Or, at least, sparse listings in the camping guide we have. The campground we are in tonight is not listed in the official New Brunswick guide, it was recommended to us by a local at the tourist centre in Bathurst. It is one of the best (in terms of what I like in a campground anyway) we’ve been in for a while – beautiful spot right on the water, decent size lots, and nice and quiet. And cheaper than most as well! I am not sure who puts together the official provincial camping guides, or how they decide who gets in and what rating to assign, but they sure use different criteria than I would!

As planned we are staying off major highways and taking secondary ones (highway 134 and 340). There is not much traffic along the roads (with the exception of the area north of Bathurst) so it was a very enjoyable ride. The pavement is not great, but better than many parts have been. At least the patch jobs seem to help here, not like in Quebec when it looks like they just randomly fling tar from the back of a pickup using an oversized ice cream scoop!

Wednesday, July 27

Dalhousie Lighthouse

Today’s ride cut across the Gaspe penninsula, and we continued in New Brunswick onto the coast, overlooking Chaleur Bay on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There can be no further question of it – we are in Atlantic Canada now. The towns have changed noticably, as has the scenery. The towns do not look as old – maybe because there are more wooden buildings as opposed to the old stone ones in Quebec? And the maritime feel is noticable – lighthouses and open sea. Should be some interesting stuff coming up!

Packed in

We’re staying at the Dalhousie municipal campground (“Inch Arran Park” is the name of it, not sure who are what Inch Arran is yet). Fairly close quarters here as it is a full house tonight due to the the celebration of the town’s centennial anniversary. The spots on the other side of the park are right on the water and look fantastic! They’ve got the flags of all the provinces flying – I tried to get the BC flag flying here but it was kind of flagging.

There’s a free concert here in the park tonight. About 50m from our campsite, as a matter of fact. They sound a bit like my dad’s band, “Just Us” when they went through their country phase. The sound quality is pretty bad, they could use a good sound engineer and some decent speakers.

Crossing into New Brunswick

There was only 1 car on the bridge when I crossed into the province. Not much traffic! From the Quebec side it did not even indicate that this headed to New Brunswick. In fact, the road sign indicator pointing towards Cambelltown, NB, which is the nearest city, actually urged you to go further in Quebec before turning down! I guess they are trying to keep people in the province for as long as possible.

Speaking of which, being from out of town (to put it mildly) I always check license plates, and in Quebec, even near the borders, almost all the plates were from Quebec. Very few visitors. Over the border in New Brunswick, there are many more out of province plates – lots of Quebec, a few more Ontario, and some American. This area seems to be quite bilingual – lots of french folks, but the signage is in english and french. Perhaps this opens things up a bit more for travelers. If you spoke no french at all, you might have a hard time in some of the places we have just been through…depending on what you wanted to do.

Reminiscent scenery!

It was a very scenic ride today. From our campsite in Sayabec, we follwed the Matapedia river all the way down into New Brunswick. It was strangely reminiscent of the Similkameen river in BC, which we traveled along many weeks ago (June 3rd and 4th). Yep, we’re still in the same country as we started! This river is very popular for fishing.

Confused in New Brunswick

For about the 1000th time, we were glad to have our Garmin GPS units. It is really useful to be able to see not just a map, but where you are on the map, and trust it! Sometimes the road signs do not jive with maps, especially off the major highways.

On the New Brunswick side, the roads seem to be OK so far, although the paved shoulder is not as common or well maintained. We are going to be on secondary highways for the most part so I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I am not sure if they have the same positive attitudes towards cyclists here as they do in Quebec. Within about 10 minutes of getting into the province I was honked at (as in, “get out of my way”) by someone in Atholville. What do you call someone who lives there, anyway? Probably something similar to what I called Mr. Honk.

My rear view mirror finally exploded today – literally! I was riding along, hit a little crack in the pavement and it busted into about 50 pieces and fell off my bike. I guess the potholes in Quebec were too much for it! Just as well though, it was already worn out and wouldn’t hold it’s position when you hit a medium size bump, which was about every 2 seconds in many places!. Kind of a bummer considering I just bought it in April, but then again I do have more than 8000km on the bike since then (including my 2000km of training in April and May).

July 27 – Sayabec to Dalhousie (NB)

Bike log: 160.1km, 809m of vertical, avg. speed 31.5 km/h

Here we are in New Brunswick! We took a fairly sparsely traveled route into the province, crossing by bridge just past Matapedia, Quebec, and unlike every other border crossing so far, there was no “Welcome” sign immediately visible. We checked our GPS maps, and looked across the bridge to Quebec (which did have a Welcome sign up), and we were pretty sure we were in New Brunswick, so we pressed on and eventually found the welcome sign a mile or so down the road. I’m glad it was there – it would have been a bad sign for the famed east coast frendliness had we not been welcomed!

The road through the Quebec side alternated between extremely good and bone jarringly bad today, in about equal quantities. We hit some construction for about 5km though, they are definitely working to improve it. I found that the roads in Quebec were either terrible or fantastic. I think they do not do a very good job of patching them up, and wait until they are really bad before repaving. I have definitely hit the worst potholes so far here. But the good parts on the whole were much more common.

Tuesday, July 26

Goodbye Quebec

Well, today will definitely be our last night in Quebec. We both really enjoyed our time in this province, even more than expected. The scenery along the river was fantastic, and I thought the old towns were very cool. My limited experience with the people here was also extremely positive, even with my terrible french language skills. And of course, the fact that you can buy wine in the grocery store or even at “the Dep” was great! So to celebrate our last night in this province, we did just that, and are raising a glass of (imported) french wine.

Lac Malcom near Sayabec

We headed in a southerly direction, away from the St. Lawrence, at the town of Mont-Joli. There was an immediate change in the scenery as we climbed up and into some hills. We are back into terrain that looks much more similar to northern Ontario – little lakes, and lots of rolling hills. Some of the climbs are a pretty decent size, though still small compared to those around Lake Superior (or BC of course). I cracked the 1000m mark on the vertical again today, thanks in part to the whoppers that we climbed after the turnoff into this campground. No complaints, though, there should be some good coasting tomorrow as we follow the Matapedia river down into New Brunswick. The weather also changed as we headed inland – the wind died down and it started to cloud over. In fact, it started to rain lightly about 2 minutes after we got into our campsite. Lucky timing!

(later note – it was 6km off the road to the campground, despite the fact that it said 3km in the guide book. Had I known that, I would probably have continued on to the next town, about 15km to the next campgsite and it was very flat).

July 26 – Trois Pistoles to Sayabec

Bike log: 150.0 km, 1023m of vertical, avg. speed 29.9 km/h

I am definitely glad we did the backtrack yesterday and continued along the St. Lawrence river. We had about 100km or so of road along the river today, and it was very scenic the whole way. For a couple of days, as the river has been getting wider and wider, we have been wondering at what point it stops being “river” and starts being “sea” (or I suppose it would be the gulf of St. Lawrence). Possibly this is a well defined place, but I thought it was a very strong indication today when we passed through the city of Rimourski and actually smelt the ocean! Yep, it’s hard to mistake that salty low tide smell. The large low tide mudflats that were visible along the road were a tipoff as well. As we contined along east towards our southerly turnoff in the direction of New Brunswick, the little homes along the water started to look more and more like classic maritime cottages – small white homes with red roofs nestled along the water. A preview of what is to come in the next week or so!

It was very exciting to finally see seawater again after so long on the road. We still have a ways to go, not to mention 4 provinces, before the journey is over, but it sure felt like a big milestone had been hit. A couple of towns that we passed through today offered whale watching tours, and a number of the roadside food shacks are now offering “homard” (lobster).

The road was pretty good today, although the shoulder diappeared in some places. In Quebec, when the pavement is bad, it is really bad, and a couple of times today I felt like I was sitting on a jackhammer as I bounced over some pretty huge potholes and dodgy pavement. I had a pretty decent tailwind all the way along the river as well, which meant I was going pretty fast when I started bouncing away! But the road along the water was still fairly heavily used by other cyclists, and so the motorists are pretty good about giving you space. But, I finally had a rude motorist experience here in Quebec. It was a section where the pavement was bad (potholes more than a foot across) and I had to get over into the road to avoid them. I shoulder checked and the driver behind me had lots of time to pull out, and the oncoming lane was clear, so I pulled out. He passed me, but honked rather obnnoxiously as he did so – kind of unnerving when you are in the midst of such a maneuver. As he passed me, I noticed the plate – he was from Ontario! I guess he was not used to the bike culture that seems to exist here – people of all ages are on bikes, on the roads, and the cars share it with them.

Monday, July 25

Church in Trois Pistoles

The rest of the ride to Trois Pistoles was pretty nice, although some of it was away from the river so you did not see as much. Trois Pistoles has a fairly large church which looms up above pretty much everything around – not uncommon to many of the towns we’ve seen along the way.

Scenery along the south shore

The traffic picked up after highway 20 joined us on highway 132, but the condition of the pavement improved greatly as well so it was about even. This is the only (major) road out to the Gaspe pennisula, so I guess it is not surprising that it is busy. There are still lots of towns and the water side has lots of really nice looking homes all along, even between towns.

Heading to Riviere-du-Loup

Today we did a bit of backtracking. Our original route plan was to go south at Riviere-du-Loup (RDL) and head for Edmunston. However, that was not to be. We had about 60km or so to go from last night’s campground to RDL, and the scenery was really spectacular. Really great views of the St. Lawrence river, which is getting quite wide. The mountains on the other side of the river have started looking pretty big, and rise up in layers away from the water. It is quite reminiscent of the scenery back home on Vancouver Island once again – looks a lot like the east side of the island, up past Nanaimo. Except of course that there are really old towns and buildings all along the way!

The condition of the road for that stretch was not the greatest (this photo was a bit of an exception), but the traffic was light and the drivers were considerate. When we hit Riviere-du-Loup and headed southeast on highway 185, my old friend the Trans-Canada, it all changed. The traffic was really heavy, with lots of logging trucks and transport trucks, and the scenery got kind of dull (boy have we been spoiled for the last while). I guess dull is not the best word, but a wide, fairly straight highway through a forest does not compare too well to the kind of scenery we had been seeing all morning. The map seemd to show that the area was a bit more sparsely populated as well, which is a bit of a disadvantage for the kind of traveling we are doing. Lots of small towns are good as they give us lots of options for the next meeting point as well as for camping locations.

We had a lunch break about 20km outside of RDL (about halfway to St.-Louis-de-Ha!-Ha!, I kid you not) and decided to head back to RDL and take “the other way” into New Brunswick. The other way is to continue along the south shore of the St. Lawrence river and turn southeast at Mont-Jolie, another 130 or so km east of RDL, and cut over to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This route does not go through Fredericton or Moncton, but after dealing with cities I am thinking that is also in its favour. It is probably a tiny bit longer (especially when you backtrack…) than the other way, but hopefully the scenery will be worth it.

July 25 – Riviere-Ouelle to Trois Pistoles

Bike log: 136.8km, 656m of vertical, avg. speed 27.5 km/h

Great name for the town, eh? We are staying at the municipal campground here – it’s a really nice campground. One of the better ones in a while.

We were pretty surprised to wake up this morning and find that the weather had turned a bit chilly! What a huge change from just a couple of days ago. I was wearing longs sleeves for much of the day, even a windbreaker shell at one point. It was overcast the whole day, although it did not rain. There was also a mild headwind the whole day, which built stronger as the day got on. It seems that the “uncommon” weather, which we have experienced quite a bit of, is often accompanied by an east wind, while the “more normal” weather comes with a westerly wind. Rain on the prairies, cold through the interior of BC and northern Ontario, really high humidity in Ontario, were all like this, whereas when the weather got back to what the locals said was more usual for the time and place, we have been getting west winds. I guess that is what is meant by prevailing winds, although so far I have had 25 days with dominating headwinds and 11 with tailwinds (the rest being calm, crosswinds or a mixture). Not sure if that’s unusual or not! The good news is that when it is a tailwind it tends to be a good strong one.

Sunday, July 24

Campground in Riviere-Ouelle

The campground here in Riviere-Ouelle is much nicer than the one in Portneuf. At least you get a few trees and some space around the campsite! And it was about half the price too – I think the manager gave me a break (or didn’t want to hassle with my bad french) and just charged me as a cyclist, no car.

Farms along the south shore

It was a nice sunny day today, pretty much the perfect summer temperature, and I had a tailwind for the whole day. The road (highway 132) was very flat and once again in excellent condition for riding. Saw lots of other touring cyclists again today. Couldn’t have asked for much better conditions!

There is quite a few people living on the this south shore. In addition to a number of very old, small towns that we passed through, almost the whole way there were homes or farms, at least on the water side. I was expecting it to start getting a bit sparse as we head along here, but it’s very busy – cottages and campgrounds everywhere. I am really enjoying seeing the old towns here – lots of building dating back to the mid 1700’s. Cool!

Cheryl on the ferry to Levis

The town of Levis is immediately south of Quebec city, across the St. Lawrence river, andis connected by bridge and ferry. Much less popluated than Quebec city but still some nice looking parts to it. The road up to the highway is a steep climb right of nearly 100m right off the ferry – no chance for the legs to warm up! There was a bike path that looked like it probably wound its way up to the highway, but we like to take the same route – bike and van – so we know where the other is at, and so I generally do not take dedicated bike paths.

July 24 – Quebec City to Riviere-Ouelle

Bike log: 130.9km, 584m of vertical, avg. speed 31.8 km/h

We had a slightly late start since we did a little bit more sight seeing this morning before heading down to the ferry. This was an unscheduled ferry trip – when I planned our route I though we’d be taking the bridge here, but this ferry left from very close to our hotel and saved us having to back track several km, so why not? So this is ferry ride 4 out of 6. A very short ride, 5 or 10 minutes over to the town of Levis on the south shore of the St. Lawrence river. That’s our hotel up on the hill – impressive!

Saturday, July 23

Touring old town Quebec

Old town Quebec is full of little narrow streets lined with neat old buildings. It is the only walled city in North America north of Mexico City, I've been told. There were some “ruins” (old walls) in the lower city that went back to the late 1600’s. Most of the ones that are still intact are newer – some 1700’s and mostly 1800’s. Many of the buildings appeared to be residential, some were offices, and there is no shortage of excellent restaurants and your standard touristy shops. We spent much of today wandering around the city just looking at the buildings and streets.

This city was definitely a high point in the trip for both of us. I am so glad to finally get a chance to see it as it topped my high expectations. Certainly a place I would love to come back to. Although I suppose you’d want to be careful about the month you choose eh? I would expect these streets get a little treacherous during the long snowy winter. Still , we found it hard to get enough of this place – we are kind of sad to be moving on (although I’m sure once we get moving tomorrow that feeling will disappear as it always does).

Hotel room/Bike shop/Laundrymat

I’m not sure that the hotel would be thrilled to know that I brought my bike into our fancy hotel room – and thoroughly cleaned it! I had newspaper and plenty of rags down though, not to worry. I finally got a chance to swap out my Sigma Sport spedometer which has not worked for me since just after Sault Ste. Marie despite changing all 3 batteries and endless fiddling. Got a different brand altogether – hopefully this one holds up!

July 23 - Rest day in Quebec City

What a great tourist attraction – where else can you fire a giant cannon at passing boats? It was even more fun than driving those huge trucks in Sparwood. These suckers really make a bang when they go off – wear your hearing protection and make sure the wheels are chocked before you light the fuse!

Friday, July 22

Another Westy

Our Westfalia was too tall to fit in the parking garage here, so they offered us the most prime parking spots they had – right in front of the hotel! As luck would have it, there was another Westfalia in the same situation. We chatted to the owners for a bit, they are from Montreal and are on their way to the Iles de la Madeleine, which is a long ferry ride north from PEI. Talk about a remote place!

Ferry to Levis

We are taking tomorrow off to enjoy the city. This was a bit shorter than normal before a rest, but in this case we are doing it to be tourists. As has become our custom, we have checked into a hotel. We choose a really cool old hotel in Old Quebec. This is the view from our window – the ferry goes to Levis on the south shore. We’ll probably end up taking the ferry to get over there tomorrow when we leave, to avoid heading back through traffic to the bridge. We'll take the south shore of the St. Lawrence from here.

July 22 Portneuf to Quebec City

Bike log: 47.0km, 257m of vertical, avg. speed 31.7 km/h

Wow! This city is truly stunning. We have been anticipating this city as one of the highlights of our trip, and were expecting something very impressive, but we were still blown away by it! “Old Quebec” is really like a European city, completely with walled fortress, narrow winding streets, and old buildings! It is another instance where it is near impossible to determine where to point the camera as there are fantastic views everywhere. It is so strange to come across this in the midst of a cross Canada bicycle trip, I keep having to remind myself that we have not left our home country.

It was a very short ride today – glad we pushed hard the last couple of days to get so far east because we got here by 11 and had almost a full day of sight seeing. The road continued to be fantastic for riding – I have seen many people in the last few days riding along, enjoying the route and the small towns. There are “auberges” (inns) all along the way for people to stop and rest or eat at. I have seen more recreational cyclists in the last few days than anywhere else on the trip - people of all ages and fitness levels too. Yesterday’s west wind was changing to an east wind today, getting pretty strong by the afternoon – too bad for all the people I saw yesterday heading out from Quebec if they were planning to return today!

Thursday, July 21

Camping or parking?

Our campground tonight has taken several prizes – none of them good! It was the most expensive spot yet - $36.80 – and also the smallest. Not much bigger than an average parking stall. I had to move the “fire pit” (a.k.a a rusty old wheel) so we could get in, and our door could not open all the way due to a tree, and we couldn’t’ roll back to avoid it without getting into our neighbour’s space. There was not even room for a picnic table on our site – good thing our van is self contained and we did not need to set up a tent! If you are ever looking for a campground near Portneuf, I would recommend moving along to the next town – it’s not far and it can’t be worse!

Covered bridge

We’ve seen a few covered bridges lately in eastern Ontario and Quebec . Very cool! I rode through it even though the sign said not to. What a rebel.

Villages across the river

We passed through many little villages today, very charming old buildings. And huge churches!
There has been a noticable change in the towns and villages over the last several days. As we moved out of northern Ontario into central and then eastern Ontario, the frequency of villages has increased – you go through them much more often. They also are getting older and older as we move east. Some of the ones we passed through today boasted founding dates in the early 1700’s. The influences of Toronto and Montreal have definitely disrupted this pattern and have caused giant sprawling suburban messes where the only hope of survival is to live in your car and drive everywhere. You can definitely feel the European influence of the settlement here – it is not hard to picture yourself cruising through European countryside, watching the steeples on the horizon get bigger as the town gets closer.

Looking at the south shore

The river alternated between quite narrow and very wide. Not too many islands in this part, compared to eastern Ontario, but once again there are large bluffs visibile in many parts – remnants of previous epochs where the water level was higher. The road that we were on was up a bit from the river in places, which allowed for some spectacular views!

July 21 – Joliette to Portneuf

Bike log: 171.0km, 380m of vertical, avg. speed 30.8 km/h

What a difference a day makes in the conditions of the roads! Yesterday was one of the worst (in terms of road conditions once we crossed the border) but today was definitely one of the best! The stretch of highway 158 and then 138 between Joliette and Quebec City is known as “Le Chemin du Roi” and is extremely well suited for cycling. It is completely flat, there is a bike lane for most of the way, and the pavement is in excellent shape. There are even road signs up telling people to share the road with cyclists! The road follows the north shore of the St. Lawrence river and has incredible views all along.

It was still hot today, but once again the humidity is gone so compared to what we’ve been through it is nothing. The tailwind is holding up as well – what a nice change. It is almost strange to be covering so much distance once again and cruising at a more normal speed!

Old town

We stopped for breakfast in the town of Vankleek Hill (ON). It is a very old town, dating back nearly 300 years. There were lots of cool old buildings around. It is nice to see that they keep the buildings up so well, as do so many of the little towns we’ve been through. Obviously very proud of the heritage.

After crossing into Quebec, we took highway 148 towards Lachute (where it turned into highway 158.) This was a route recommended to me by some Quebecers as a way to avoid Montreal. It did that for the most part (although the traffic did get fairly heavy in places), but the condition of the roads was a shock! I thought secondary highways, as these are marked, would be in reasonable shape, but there were some pretty astonishing potholes. This was some of the worst pavement I’ve ridden over. There’s also the old disappearing shoulder trick…one mile it’s there, the next it’s not! It was not really a pretty ride as it passed through the “strip mall” section of several small towns, but also through some farmland as well.

I am relieved that the weather pattern we’ve had for the last week and a half or so has finally changed (or we’ve gotten clear of it). It is still hot – around 30 C – but the humidity is finally gone. Late yesterday a bit of a storm came through, and after it cleared it was no longer humid. The wind also seems to have changed for the better – it’s more or less out of the NW now, as opposed to an easterly headwind. Yay!

We are camped about 7 km west of Joliette. It was a long way to come after crossing the border – although the headwind I had battled to get into Quebec became a taiwind once we headed east! The quality of the roads defintely slows me down – it is hard to get up speed when you are constantly dodging potholes, and rough, bumpy roads also make it hard to get a good groove going. However, I was anxious to press on as far as possible today, to get clear of the influence of Montreal. I did not want to be dreaming about that.

My french language skills are holding up OK so far. It has been a long time since I studied it, but reading those cereal boxes must be keeping me sharp as we have been able to get by our first day without any major hangups. I had to ask a couple of people to speak slowly, but they did. I have not found people to be rude at all despite my horrendous accent.