Québec: July 20 - 26
log: 170.0km, 616m of vertical, avg. speed 27.6 km/h
20 – Bainsville to Joliette (PQ)
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
log: 171.0km, 380m of vertical, avg. speed 30.8 km/h
21 – Joliette to Portneuf
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.
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
at the south shore
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
across the river
passed through many little villages today, very charming old
buildings. And huge churches!
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.
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
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!
log: 47.0km, 257m of vertical, avg. speed 31.7 km/h
22 Portneuf to Quebec City
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:
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
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.
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!
23 - Rest day in Quebec City
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!
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!
old town Quebec
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.
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!
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
log: 130.9km, 584m of vertical, avg. speed 31.8 km/h
24 – Quebec City to Riviere-Ouelle
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
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.
along the south shore
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 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 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.
log: 136.8km, 656m of vertical, avg. speed 27.5 km/h
25 – Riviere-Ouelle to Trois Pistoles
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
Cloudy and chilly in Kamouraska
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
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
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.
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.
along the south shore near St. André
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.
in Trois Pistoles
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
log: 150.0 km, 1023m of vertical, avg. speed 29.9 km/h
26 – Trois Pistoles to Sayabec
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!
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).
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
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!
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).
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