Back to Ontario Part 4


This page covers the bike trip from Bainsville to Sayabec.

Total Days: 7
Pedaling Days: 6
Total Distance: 806 km
Total Vertical: 3,516m
Average Speed: 29.6 km/h

Route summary: North on sideroads to Hawksbury, crossing the bridge there to Quebec.  From there, we followed Highway 148, 158, then 138 to Quebec City.  Taking the ferry to Levis, we followed the south shore on highway 132 all the way to Mont-Joli.  Then highway 132 south towards Amqui, and continuing along the Matapedia river to New Brunswick.

Click on a day below, or scroll down to go through day by day.  Click on any image below to get a larger view.  
Click here to go back to the trip index.

  1. Québec: July 20 - 26
    1. Wednesday, July 20
      1. July 20 – Bainsville to Joliette (PQ)
      2. Old town
    2. Thursday, July 21
      1. July 21 – Joliette to Portneuf
      2. Me in Joliette
      3. Cheryl on the St. Lawrence River
      4. Looking at the south shore
      5. Villages across the river
      6. Covered bridge
      7. Camping or parking?
    3. Friday, July 22
      1. July 22 Portneuf to Quebec City
      2. Ferry to Levis
      3. Another Westy
    4. Saturday, July 23
      1. July 23 - Rest day in Quebec City
      2. Hotel room/Bike shop/Laundromat
      3. Touring old town Quebec
      4. Our hotel
    5. Sunday, July 24
      1. July 24 – Quebec City to Riviere-Ouelle
      2. The ferry to Levis
      3. Farms along the south shore
      4. Old Mill
    6. Monday, July 25
      1. July 25 – Riviere-Ouelle to Trois Pistoles
      2. Cloudy and chilly in Kamouraska
      3. Island in the St. Lawrence
      4. Heading to Riviere-du-Loup
      5. Scenery along the south shore near St. André
      6. Church in Trois Pistoles
    7. Tuesday, July 26
      1. July 26 – Trois Pistoles to Sayabec
      2. Goodbye Quebec

Québec: July 20 - 26

Wednesday, July 20

Bike log: 170.0km, 616m of vertical, avg. speed 27.6 km/h

July 20 – Bainsville to Joliette (PQ)

At last – we are into Quebec! If I sound excited about that, it is partly due to finally getting through Ontario. I have mentioned before that there is a noticeable change at the border, and this was definitely no exception! Obviously the signage and language was a bit tipoff. The condition of the roads was noticeably worse as well – perhaps Quebec will be challenging Manitoba for the worst roads yet. We will see!

As planned, we headed north from our campground last night along some back roads towards Hawksbury. There was a bit of zigging and zagging involved, and at one point we came to…the provincial border! Kind of unexpected, but we crossed into the “horn of Quebec” which is the bit of land south of the Ottawa river, west of Montreal, and north of the St. Lawrence but still in Quebec. Kind of a unique way to enter the province for the trip – and it was such a nice road that it made a good photo op. We exited the province not long after and proceeded along our course, crossing in at the bridge in Hawksbury.

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 tailwind once we headed east! The quality of the roads definitely 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.


Thursday, July 21

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

July 21 – Joliette to Portneuf

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! 

Me in Joliette

We had breakfast in Joliette.  It was a cool town - very pretty.  Our french is holding out OK so far and we have found the people to be very friendly.

Cheryl on the St. Lawrence River

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!

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 visible 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!

Villages across the river

We passed through many little villages today, very charming old buildings. And huge churches!

There has been a noticeable 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.

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.

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!


Friday, July 22

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

July 22 Portneuf to Quebec City

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.  Here are a sample of the sites:

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!

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.

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!


Saturday, July 23

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!

Hotel room/Bike shop/Laundromat

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 speedometer 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!

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.

Our hotel

Our hotel is the Chateau Frontenac.  We hadn't planned on staying here, but we wanted to stay somewhere in the old town, and it was pretty nuts driving around these old streets.  This was the first place that it was convenient to pull in to...and what the heck!

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).


Sunday, July 24

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

July 24 – Quebec City to Riviere-Ouelle

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.

The ferry to Levis

The town of Levis is immediately south of Quebec city, across the St. Lawrence river, and is connected by bridge and ferry. Much less populated 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.

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!

Old Mill

There are 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!

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.


Monday, July 25

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

July 25 – Riviere-Ouelle to Trois Pistoles

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.

Cloudy and chilly in Kamouraska

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.

Island in the St. Lawrence

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.  The photo above was representative. 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!

Heading to Riviere-du-Loup

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 seemed 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.

Scenery along the south shore near St. André

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 peninsula, 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.

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.


Tuesday, July 26

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

July 26 – Trois Pistoles to Sayabec

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 continued 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 diapered 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 obnoxiously 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.

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 campsite and it was very flat, although the campground we stayed on was on a nice little lake).

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.

Continue on into New Brunswick