Day 54: Quebec City to L’islet (86km)
I don’t know what they are saying to me. It’s a sunny Sunday morning on a bike path hugging the side of the St Lawrence. The cyclists are out in force. Smiling couples, a peloton of club riders, a lone female cyclist headed to Halifax and MAMILs. Lots and lots of MAMILs sporting protruding middle age midriff wrapped in snazzy lycra jersey. They fly past me on their carbon forks, exclaiming… I don’t know. I imagine that they are saying:
“Wow, you’ve got a lot of stuff. Where are you headed?”
“Wow, you’ve got a lot of stuff. You must have strong legs!”
“Wow, you’ve got a lot of stuff. Are you carrying glass jars or something?”
I reply with a simple “bonjour” for fear of affirming or disaffirming whatever they have said. I pedal on.
Today has been brilliant. Absolutely smashing.
I didn’t realise what time it was and accidentally left the hostel an hour early. I had made good use of the hostel’s $5 breakfast by picking up: 2 bagels, 2 peanut butters, 2 jams, 2 margarines, 4 mini muffins, 2 glasses of orange juice, 2 sachets of porridge, 1 banana, 1 orange, 2 boiled eggs and 1 tea bag. No, I didn’t eat it all then and there but I figured if questioned by staff I could have.
I screeched down the near vertical streets of old Quebec to the clamour of church bells. The sun was already warm and the tourists had already started their guided walking tours of the cobbled side streets.
To continue my journey east I took the ferry over the river. On board there were a lot of cyclists. One MAMIL wandered over to chat. In very, very broken French I explained what I was doing. To be honest, one only needs to say “Victoria, Halifax” and people can tell from my tan lines and Monty exactly what I’m doing.
On the other side of the river I followed the MAMILs along the route verte bike path. I passed a gazebo and my heart panged. That very gazebo. I remember it. The last time (and first time) I cycled alongside the river in Quebec was on a ride with the Millers 8 years ago. I ate a muffin in that gazebo while we waited for the ferry. Alas, that is the last familiar sight I will see for a month. But on the plus, I’ve been promised more muffins when I return to the Miller’s in Montreal so that is a reason to keep cycling.
Perhaps it was the memory of a Miller muffin but my stomach growled. So I stopped on one of the lounging chairs alongside the bike path and ate 2 x protein bars in quick succession. I set a new record for eating Second Breakfast after only 3km. Go me.
All the way along the bike path I was passed by fellow cyclists. I was approaching a road crossing. The bike path cut over a quiet residential street. And then it happen.
A car stopped for me. A car. Stopped. For me. I nearly fell off my bike in shock. It wasn’t until a 2km later that realised I was going the wrong way so turned back around.
Mr Ferry cycled past. “Halifax is that way!” He called as he saw me returning to the residential road.
“This is the first time in 5,500 kilometres that I have gone the wrong way and had to back track,” I explained. For little did he realise the effect of the car stopping.
Cycling with John around Montreal reminded me how deliciously icecream complements cycling. So when I saw a dairy bar touting homemade icecream I figured I should stop for a scoop or two. it is amazing I received anything given how appallingly badly I spoke French. Savouring maple and Nutella icecream outside in the sunshine though I reflected on my new finishing point.
Thanks to the crashed ferry I have saved myself a sweet $400 (ie £250) by ending in Halifax rather than St John’s. I decided that this money should be reinvested in my trip. So for the next 4 weeks I have a $10 per day beer, icecream and delicious items budget (BIDIB).
Food was clearly in my mind. I couldn’t resist stopping at one of the roadside stalls to buy freshly picked sweet corn and a box of strawberries. All day I pedalled past neat rows of strawberries, rhubarb and fields of corn lined in stripes leading down to the river. The sun warmed my back and wind blew behind me. I felt free and happy.
After lunch I went grocery shopping, with my newly formed BIDIB in mind. I have decided to go gourmet. I have basically existing on a diet of peanut butter, crackers, avocado and Kraft dinner for the last 2 months. So I bought some maple butter. I am, after all, in Canada and intend at some point to attempt pancakes. But, yes, that does mean I am now carrying a glass jar.
After a pleasant 86km of riding I arrived at campground at the sweetly early hour of 3.30pm. I devoured a block of fudge and a beer. I set up my tent with great difficulty in the strongly gusting wind.
What now? Alas yesterday I discovered that my kindle has died. I followed instructions on the amazon website in an attempt to resurrect it but to no avail. I began to lament the lack of decent paperbacks for paperbacks do not have problems with the frozen screen of death. Then I realised I could download the Kindle app on iPad. Joy of joys. I continued reading Victoria Pendleton’s biography on iPad app and forgot about the demise of paperbacks.
A happy day indeed.