Day 51: Montreal to Louiseville (109km)
The tailwind is gently pushing me along. The sun warms the skin of my back. A few whispy feathers of cloud float in the sky. Cornfields grow tall in the not-to-hot sunshine. The bike path along the river is flat. The road is quiet, the traffic considerate. This would be the most beautiful day’s cycling, but I can barely see the road through the tears in my eyes.
Why am I here? Why do I have to cycle today? The toned, muscularity of my shoulders and legs belies the weakness underneath. I feel like I am wearing a heavy cloak. Tears fall down my face as Monty pedals on. It feels like I am leaving home.
Montreal has been the highlight of my trip. In the last 3 days I have discovered a local fungi market stall, cooked spaghetti carbonara with 3 different species of fungi, chatted about bike fitting, touring and frame welding in the friendliness bike shop downtown. I’ve slept in a warm bed, eaten smoked salmon for brunch, sampled crime brûlée ice cream and clocked up 60km of pedalling around the city’s bike paths. But Montreal has felt more like home because the Millers (all of them) have made me feel so welcome.
I didn’t leave Montreal until 12noon. I packed so slowly, delayed for a bit and let the time pass. But isn’t it so late now that I should just stay here and leave tomorrow? In the haven of the Millers’ apartment, my body has relaxed these last few days and the peaceful, comfortable rest has unveiled the exhaustion that lies underneath. My body craves sleep.
But I had to leave Montreal today because I now have a flight to catch. My plans have changed because the ferry that I was intending to take to Argentia, Newfoundland, (but thankfully hadn’t booked) had been cancelled for the “next few weeks”. This is because one of the other Marine Atlantic ferries, on the more popular route to Port-aux-basques, crashed and so the Argentia ferry was moved over to the shorter crossing while the damage boat is repaired. Marine Atlantic seem to have made a complete muck up of handling the situation and information on the revised ferry schedule has been thin on the ground. In fact, if it wasn’t for Katie Wanderer I won’t even have known! Anyway, cycling from Port-aux-Basques to St John’s would take at least an extra week – a week I don’t have. So I have decided that I will meet the coast and finish my trip in Halifax. I will still have time for a final flourish around the Cabot Trail but finishing in Halifax will also allow me to nip to Toronto for a couple of days before I fly back to England. All I need to do now is cycle to the Atlantic coast. To be honest, that’s all I’ve been doing for the last 2 months.
John guided me along the bike path for the first part of my journey out of Montreal. I would have loved him to carry on pedalling for the next 2,000km but he just laughed and hugged me goodbye. My mini tours around the islands of Montreal with John have been some of the most relaxed, enjoyable rides of the whole trip.
I can’t really remember most of the ride. I was crying too much that my tears blurred my vision and didn’t see what was around me. Monty carried me out the city, along the bike path, over a bridge, through some construction and out into the country. I only came-to after about 40km when my stomach started rumbling. I stopped for a muffin (homemade with love, which nearly set me off again) and nibbled some grapes.
I was loosely aware that it was a perfect day for cycling (sunshine, not too hot, tailwind etc). Monty kept on going. Then I saw blueberries by the side of the road. I love blueberries. I even managed to understand what the Blueberry Man was saying to me in French. Just as I was getting peckish again we found a picnic spot with a shaded bench and a refreshingly cold water tap overlooking the river. Another muffin entered my mouth, followed by a large handful of blueberries. A friendly couple wandered over to say hello and ask about my trip.
Each warm smile from a passing cyclist, each bite of muffin and each gusting tailwind unpeeled another thin layer off my miserable coating. Slowly I was beginning to remember that this was fun. Passing over the main highway, I didn’t turn back west to Montreal.
I arrived at the campground. I was greeted first by a sign on the door declaring “bienvenue cyclistes”, followed by a cheery “Bonsoir!” as the proprietor came out the office.
“Let me show you where to camp,” she said in English. She led me round to the river. And pointed at a perfectly cut grassy site bordering the river, complete with picnic bench and gazebo. I looked around the rest of the campground. This was definitely the best spot. My jaw fell.
“Install yourself here.”
“It’s beautiful.” I muttered.
“Yes,” she confirmed, “this is the best site. I save it for women and cyclists.”
At this point a smile spread across my face and with it the final layer of misery peeled off. Bar for the emotion trauma of leaving the friendliest household in Canada, today has been a perfect day of cycle touring.