Day 59: New Brunswick

​from the Lake Temiscousata, QB to Grand Falls, NB, August 21

Waking up wild. Stars, all of them and especially the constellations of the big Dipper and Cassiopeia, are bright overhead. Listen: the haunting chatter of loons and smooth slate stones clinking, shifting underfoot as I stumble out of the tent in the dark. Perks of getting up to pee in the wee hours. Awe. 

A few hours later I’m eating my first breakfast on the rocks, watching sunrise blush the trees to my left, still waters cut by an early morning boat. We continue to ride on the trail as blue Jays and redheaded woodpeckers catch morning snacks. Just kilometers to the marina and to the town of Degalis, like hobbits we take second breakfast.  

Trails in Quebec were simply fantastic. We had ridden a number of the Route Verte system, and the final push through the Interprovincial trail to New Brunswick was no different. Save for the lack of significance signage welcoming us to the new province. 

We biked to the visitor center for this photo. 

Then, after learning from the visitor center gal that bicycles were allowed on the freeways in New Brunswick, we biked against traffic on the freeway to get the better shot.

I also leaned that New Brunswick was first settled by the French on the north east side and the English on the south side near Maine. The English had more money, and wanted more land, so they went up to the coast burned all the houses in the French villages put the woman in one boat and the men and another boat and sent them away,” she said.  Some ended up in New Orleans, hence the Acadian/French culture there. 

We saw this flag everywhere (without text). 

And later learned it as the Acadian flag. New Brunswick is the only official bilingual province in Canada.

Pulling into the Esso at Edmunston a the man says in French “Those things don’t need gas,” but we certainly needed the fuel, and ice cream, for the body inside. It was a hot day @ 29 degrees, and gatorade was helpful. For days prior it had only been around 17 to 19 C.

Four flocks of Canada geese flew South across the St. John River into Maine. We were literally a stones throw from the border, our closest since Midway BC. 

Following the river down to the gorge of Grand Falls, was a pleasant, if somewhat hilly ride, on small local roads.  Crossing the bridge at Grand Falls was jaw droppingly awesome. The director of hydro noted the gates on top, but didn’t know if it was a power facility. 

Stats:

65 miles

Laundry/life lesson: try all the doors

Showing my elbows, for the first time, so as not to cause another blinding flare upon my return (eclipse day with the green machine!)

Day 57: Gray Day 

​Saint Jean Port Joli to Riviere du Loup, August 19

How a Seattle style late October day crept up the St. Lawrence river I have no idea. It was bright gray. Darkish, but still needing sunglasses. 

We left the beautiful st. jean port joli after a 5 mile rt detour to Timmy’s for breakfast and food for the day.

We took lunch at the beachfront of Karamouska, doning most of our jackets. While we weren’t yet in the gulf, I could almost smell the salt. A chill was in the air. Mercury never over 20.

Looking north across the road to the river, and looking south to the new hills we would soon climb again.

A spirited solo woman cyclist caught up to us and we ended up camping with the strong legged and wise hearted Jane from BC. She left her home in Vancouver July 1st and had taken just 3 rest days. Inspiring!

Determined to have a campfire the last night of the river we had a measly one but attracted nearby camping guests from their Westfalia,  Elena and Flourant, who played guitar, sang in French and american folk songs, and I even chimmed in on harmonica for a couple of classic tunes: Wise men say, and stand by me.

Stats:

66.64 miles

We are just a couple of chicks on bikes

 

Day 55: sight seeing and serendipity in Quebec 

A rest day in Quebec, August 17

We had gone to bed late, after return from a nice dinner out, and then a chat with our young host who had made rhubarb crisp.

Noah was 21, and well well beyond his years, as others had commented on warm showers. When he zipped into the driveway on his bike to greet us, his huge smile, and unaccented English was indeed a warm welcome.  Son of American parents, his dad is a marine biologist professor at the local university who did work, incidentally at UW Friday Harbor Lab. The mantle held urchins, sea stars, and pine cones.

After CEGEP, Quebec post highschool/precollege education program, Noah biked from Portland Oregon to El Salvador, short of his goal to return Chile, where his dad had a sabbatical when Noah was a kid. He was 19, solo, and on the road for 5 months. Now a mechanical engineering student now, Noah struck us a rather remarkable young human, with great parents. We felt at home.

So when the construction trucks started promptly at 7am, we were dismayed. We stuck our ear buds in, and went back to sleep.

In the morning we laid out the map of the Maritimes and with good Wi-Fi, attention, and sticky notes, we mapped out a good portion of the next two weeks. It feels good having little gems, like hosts and campground scenery, to look forward to.

Serendipity while traveling is among the top reasons I travel. That “right time right place” and “crossroads ” wonder. It could be a road sign with your middle name, a well timed shelter in a thunder storm, a selfie with similarly dressed strangers that later become hosts. It’s these that make the stories.

When I turned my phone on after crossing into Quebec city, I had two texts. One from Noah confirming our arrival.  The other from my cousin saying he was going to be in town for vacation, having figured out we’d be close from Facebook posts, asking to connect. What fun, especially since Bruce knows this area from having snow mobiled around it for a few years, and treated us to a favorite dinner. Thanks!

We explored this fabulous old French city with them.

The citadel guards impressed Irena, but we hardly impressed them.

And it is a bike trip, after all.

Stats:

10 miles biking to and from our host to old Quebec on borrowed bikes, (of course they were Peugeots)

310 stairs up to the promenade of the governor, with my cousin Bruce and Sue

4 delicious maple macaroons

Cobblestones, flower boxes, and heaps of tourists

Day 53: Along the St. Lawrence, a poem

Pierreville to Deschaillones-sur-St. Laurent, August 15

Dairy farms 

Wrinkled roof lines of retired barns

New barns and farm houses of many colors

Towns of hard to pronounce-hyphenated names

Too many dots on the map in the next few kilometers 

Another town, another church 

Another town, another lawn mower/weed walker

Rooflines like A line skirts, a flare at the edge, just enough to cover a porch 

Jesus in gazebos, a saint in a tub

Gas station lunch eaten at the park 

I know we are in another country, but which one again?

Steep hill down to the river camp ground 

Beers and cheers and chips and salsa as it rained, while we sheltered in a gazebo of our own 

Clear skies, sunset over the river, fire pits aglow

Rain on the tent wall plinked, because we set the fly so tight 


Stats:

64.65 miles, 100.19 km

7 dead frogs

Miles of road, or bike trail, to ourselves

Sometimes so quiet you could hear the crickets 

Surprise tall boys #heinken

 

Day 51 and some: Montreal Reunions 

Friends, food, French. Reunions. What could be better! 

Irena rolled in to Montreal Saturday late afternoon. Our reunion was a success!

So was the reunion with Nick and Daryl. They are dear friends from Seattle where they did their PhDs in astronomy and Daryl was my housemate for a year or so. I adore these two, and their son Henri. 

In my days with them, I attended a Canadian football game (the Allouettes play at McGill stadium, and Henri had summer sports camp there), learned more about Quebecois culture and schools, went school shopping, and ate and cooked well. Nick’s special biscuits and sugar pie are always tasty. 

Their urban lifestyle was fun to particpate in, especially ditching the car: walking to cafes, biking on the bike share BiXi (a brilliant portmanteau of bike and taxi), metro, cab, and bus. Montreal has interactive bus stations too, where one can call up weather, news, and bus times on a screen by waving your arms to control the “cursor”.

With Irena on Sunday, we explored the old city. We enjoyed the Brit with pug and frenchie avec poodle. Churches, cobblestones, and canals.


We ate well: first coffee and an iced tea of fresh oj with earl grey; then crepes with nutella and banana; then famous Schwartz deli, where Irena could not stop saying how awesome this smoked meat sandwich was. 

I enjoyed Montreal’s foodie culture too, with croisants, pudding chomér, beet soup in some hipster artsy spots. 

We took a cab to the top of Mt. Royal to catch the view of the city. 



 A warm and lovely dinner with friends. Merci mes amis.

Stats:

10 min bixi bike ride

Beautiful bike ways

We were reminded of smaller portions, and how much we eat. 

Day 48.2: paving the (bike path) way to Montreal 

August 10: L’Original to Montreal  (Point St. Charles), via 344, route verte 1, ile Bizard, lakeside drive, and the Lachine canal)

As soon as I turned onto Route 344, over the Ottawa river, now back in Quebec, it was clear I was also back East. Small country roads, beech maple hardwood forests, stonewalls and wooden beam fences, sugar shack sloping roof lines of small shingle sided houses, roadside vegetation of Queen Anne’s Lace Goldenrod, sumac. I had memories of biking with my friend Jon to the power Dam in Easton one summer in high school.  Memories of walking the woods with classmates in Ohio. #botanybybike 

It was also clear this was going to be a great day for biking to Montreal. I got my groove back, the weather was good, and the road was mostly flat. Plus, the signage for cyclists was obvious, and often, and the number of cyclists on the road was impressive. I was heading into areas of great population.

I was giddy in the shade, happy to be riding and reminiscing and when I saw the black eyed Susan’s, I promptly put them in my braids.

I ambled, stopping at interesting points along the way at my pace. I climbed a view tower and could see where I’d been yesterday. 

In Oka I rolled onto the pier to enjoy the Timmy’s lunch I’d packed, taking in the views, the ferry, and nodding to the day cyclists. 

These folks from New Brunswick visiting their daughter in Montreal. We all match!

At the bathrooms at the trail junction there were even more cyclists. It must have been my Seattle jersey, or my load, but there was keen interest in the journey. Some wanted pictures with me and I had a chance to pass out a few cards. A huge crew left for the ferry. Anne, Tony,  and Anke were heading east and allowed me to follow to the trail. 

Not only that, they played tour guides. Anke shared lots of route info, and tales of her solo touring in her native Germany. Tony kept asking about my bike, my load, and what I’ve been eating. I loved riding with them — a trust building exercise, in a way, joining the peloton, just following along, up and over the Oka Park hill, through the fields and forests, past the huge and loud water park. 

“Do you need to stop?” Anne asked. “I’m fine,” I replied. “Well, we’d like to treat you to an ice cream here,” and she pulls off at the on-trail mini golf place loaded with bike racks.  

Anke said, well you have a choice. Go the Google way, or be a bit adventurous. There was something in her German accent and wisdom that made me take her route.  “We’ll just take you to the ferry then,” she said, and they escorted me and waved me off.

So I crossed onto Ile Bizard, on a cable ferry, and once I crossed the next bridge I was on the island of Montreal. Lake shore Blvd was beautiful and full of hidden public art. This one stopped me, regardez le fleuve.

The the Lachine canal was equally wonderful, a smooth and welcoming ride into Montreal, bustling with bikers, roller bladders (inline skating is likely more Canadian), walkers and joggers.

I left the canal at Rue Island and rode a few more blocks to my friends house. Nick and Henri were standing at the front stoop when I arrived. Daryl came out for a big hug. I had envisioned this day since February, and it happened. I biked to Montreal!

Stats:

76 miles, 122 km

Carillion Canal, Ottawa River

Friendly cyclists a plenty

Treated to ice cream

Tiniest Canadian ferry this trip, for $1.50

Hobbit house and dragon

Knowing I can do, and enjoy, a solo tour 

Staying with friends

Voyageurs

Day 47.2, August 9, out and back around Hawksberry, ON

Voyageurs. Travelers, in French. The name of those who traveled from Montreal to points like Fort Williams, via canoe. For me, this journey, this voyage by bike. 

Continuing the canoeing metaphor, today was a day I was playing in the eddy. A stall before the (next) destination. So I biked out to Voyageur Provincial pPark in the Russell Prescott district of Ontario. 

The small road, route 4, was dotted with farms, cattle, and quaint homes. I particularly liked the churches and associated buildings with the metal roofing like this one.

Day use in a provincial park is free to cyclists, I learned as I passed through the gate, wove through the campground, and on down to the beach. 

Swimming would have been more inviting had the wind not been whipping. So I waded. 

I had brought a picnic lunch and my audiobook and I sat at a picnic table and relaxed a few hours. Mostly I was cloud gazing. Looking for shapes and animals in the clouds, feeling a chill when the breeze pushed a cloud in front of the sun. Feeling warmth when wind moved a cloud away. Wind waves lapping at the shores of the Ottawa River. 

I biked back into town in a head wind so strong, I was slow enough to see this street sign I’d missed on the way out. The man who lives on this corner told me it was the name of the farmer who had owned all of the land in this area.

Another upside of the eddy was going to Anne and Jeff’s house. They were out of town, in near by L’Original, but close, a welcome retreat in the open woods with an above ground pool out back not unlike my childhood home. Jeff was in paramedic school with Mike (my Ottawa host) and Anne was a nurse, both retired now. He volunteers as a ski host at Mt.Tremblant, earning free passes for his family in exchange. Kindness of strangers, especially those with people, and activities, in common, is so comforting. Anne made a delicious dinner of butter chicken and some avocado black bean chocolate brownies. We chatted about skiing, traveling, adventures, and first aid kits. 

Stats:

Out and back, plus the move, 30 miles

Can’t step twice in the same river

Plant ID practice 

Back on daily ice cream

Day 46.2: Proudly cycle touring 

August 8: Ottawa to Hawksberry, via route verte 1, and 148

The kitchen was bustling. We nearly all left the same time. Mike had a meeting at 08080808. 8:08 am, August 8th. I said goodbye to my great hosts and rolled off the Alta Vista hill to the Rideau River trail. At the light, I confirmed my direction with a commuter with a bright neon vest, shirt, matching helmet, and a warm smile. 

We continued in the same direction, at about the same pace, and he asked about my load, and my trip. He introduced himself. Gary works for Parks Canada at the federal office in Gatineau, and for 7 miles he essentially escorted me over the bridge as my tour guide, plant guide, and Canadian ambassador of biking goodness.  He’s a botanist, a conservation officer; we chatted about the politics and the environment.  He told me about the invasives a long the river bank, his daughter off to grad school in physical sciences and climate. I shared about my own work, my experiences with Parks Canada. All the while I was noticing the familiar deciduous vegetation I had studied in college and had grown up with. It was the blooming jewell weed (Impatiens capensis) that caught my eye with its orange flowers. Had I been alone I would have stopped to pop a seed pod, the anticipation and surprise of the dehiscent fruit the source of its nick name, touch-me-not, and my amusement.

Gary, also was my provincial line photographer. 

I took a short detour at another Botanical wonder in Gatineau at the moment, Mosaicanada, huge topiaries and plant sculptures. Then rolled down along the river on a great trail system for 20 miles before the open road. 

The route verte is a popular Quebecois bike trail system. Essentially I was on route vert number one all day. That meant lots of other daytime cyclists out on the route today on both sides of the road, some of them of them I saw on both sides given their loop. Most of them were retired folks, perhaps, but there were also two teen boys who had stopped at Tim Hortons, and through their braces and broken English told me they were out for 40 km. 

The francophone world here kept things interesting. All signage in Quebec is in French. It may be bilingual but must be in French. When I arrived at Subway in Thurso, everyone ahead of me was ordering in French. I was giggling and couldn’t remember a thing from high school French about ordering anything other than the poulet. At Tim Hortons it was almost worse, for them really, as I knew exactly what I wanted to order. Pointing worked and so did their broken English.

The shoulder along 148 was wide and traffic was light, especially since most of the transport traffic is now on Route 50 which was recently completed in the last few years. I got to see how people lived, mowing lawns, out on their front porches and a wave every now and then, avec bonjour.

On the recommendation of Bila’s friend Aaron I stopped in at the Fairmont in Montebello. It apparently is North America’s largest Log Cabin with most of the timber coming from Oregon and Washington and the shingles coming from BC. It totally reminded me of the Timberline Lodge also built in the 1930s with its circular shape and central fireplace.

The bell hop asked me in French if my name was Olive.  Aha, my Bike! We all talked a bit, trading tales. One of the front staff recognized me. You were at Tim Hortons, right?! 

Road side plants have changed. There are significantly less cattails and instead there is purple loosestrife, goldenrod (Solidago spp.)  sumac and Queen Anne’s Lace. Such familiar friends. Such memories.

I crossed back from Grenville into Hawksberry, ON for my lodging for the night. 

My first air bnb experience, this shared space was recommended by a fellow trans Canada cyclist via FB. It’s sort of a rooming house run by Gloria and her daughter Olive, pictured here with my #olive. 

Stats:

75 miles, 120 km

Solo

Roadkill skunks 

Land of tin roof churches

Tomatoes and mint water treat at my air bnb host.

Transportation movement in the capital city 

Ottawa is Canada’s capital. 

Picked by the Queen because it was further from the US border than Toronto and halfway then between there and Montreal. It sits at the junction of the Ottawa River and the Rideau river, on which the canal built in the 1800s is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Parliament sits on a hill above both rivers. I saw The Changing of the Guard, and toured inside.

The library is unbelievable. Eat your heart out Hermione! Totally gothic style and pretty amazing building, including a view from the peace tower.

Sunday night I attended the Northern Lights show projected onto the facade of the parliament building. It’s an annual event, but with Canada at 150, and this a long weekend, it was a big deal. 

Ottawa also has great bike infrastructure, and great bike people. 

A huge shout out to Alex at The Cyclery and Rodger at Air Canada baggage claim, (“that’s where I take my bike”) and my warm showers hosts and extended families. 

I stayed first with Heather and Chris. They really helped out in a pinch. He’s a teacher and she works for the federal government but in her volunteer time she is an amazing bike advocate, spending countless hours on open source maps to update bike trails in Ontario. People in town know her as a super fast rider! While their house is somewhat out of town Heather provided me geat routes to get to and from places including large swath of green spaces of the Rideau River Trail through the experimental Farm trail. I’m sorry I couldn’t spend more time with her. Chris and I had good chats about education, school boards, and kids these days.

Then I stayed with another fantastic cycling family. Ingrid and Mike, and sons Damian and Nick, are quite the bike tourers and adventurers. Mike was a pilot for emergency medic helicopters and she was a flight paramedic. Now, he inspects planes for an FAA equivalent, and she certifies paramedics. Above all else, they love to bike and be outside. They take off on bike trips around Canada and the US. In 2015 they cycled from Seattle to San Francisco, and the following summer in 2016, from San Francisco to San Diego and the Mexico border. On Sunday in Ottawa they took me around their fair city on the Rideau River Trail, the Ottawa River Trail, and the Scenic Parkway that was closed to car traffic for bicycle Sunday. These are capital city properties that pair nicely with urban Ottawa bike infrastructures. In a few weeks they head to ride the coast of Michigan, from Chicago north.

On route back to their place, I stopped downtown to check out KONTINUUNM, an interactive light installation in the soon to be finished light rail stations. Amazing. I’m always a fan of public art in unusual spaces. This installation is unbelievable, especially for me given that Seattle had just recently finished a northern station of our light rail, that I have been seeing under construction for years and volunteered at on the day it opened.

What insight Ottawa 2017 had to collaborate with this art group to create a space and experience in the construction zone of the Light Rail station. It seemed completely unAmerican to me to let the public descend down concrete stairs to the tunnel where the rails would be. And it was completely transformative to experience the light and sound show, the continuum of transportation.  I was moved.  

Monday night I was invited to dinner at Ingrid’s brother, Alex, another warm shower host, who turns out to be a friend of Heather’s. Alex and his wife Anouk are big bikers, maybe it’s the Dutch heritage. Alex just returned from a mutliweek ride in the Northern territories from Yellow Knife. In addition to a delicious dinner and great stories, I geeked out watching her help injured birds, as she volunteers to prevent bird collisions in the city. This white throated sparrow has a broken leg. She’s a drop center and gives first line aid, pain meds and antiinflamatory, and then some hydration, before tranfering them to the rehab center. So cool. 

With all these lovely people, these great urban bike days, I feel ready to get back out tomorrow morning, and fly. 

Thank you Ottawa. 

Of dorm rooms and decisions

Nearly daily during this adventure, Irena and I would be addressed as girls. Maybe it was my braids, but it made us giggle. But there is nothing quite like a throw back to girldom as staying in a dorm. 

Canadian universities open their dorms in summer to the public. I stayed at UBC once 20 something years ago. Now, I took a basic single at Lakehead University. Cheap, clean, (real) towels, sheets, fridge, and access to so much more. But no AC. The constant whirl of the electric fan, and this sticky humidity, was also a throw back to my own Midwest college days. How did we do it?

Like a college kid I slept late, lounged around, ate peanut butter sandwiches, and watched rerun TV in the lounge, after binging podcasts and KEXP. It took a few days to recover my brain into adulting the next steps of this journey, the path beyond two wheels rolling with my friend. 

Like the libra I am, I was plauged by choices. Options. Ideas. Iterations. Drive around the lake? How far can I drive if I need a nap every afternoon? Plus, very expensive drop fee. Go to Minnesota to visit a dear family friend who’s summer cabin town was on my map for days? But so far. Train? Via Rail suspended passenger train service from Thunder Bay 20 years ago. Bummer. How does one travel with a bike vs on it?  Fly? First world problems. 

But being a novice bike tourer made me vulnerable and required asking for help. From the bike shop, from the campus kids, from the adventure shops in town. I downloaded new apps, made lots of texts and phone calls, and surfed the web more than I care to. I just knew movement had to be eastward.

I took a break to do other things I love, too, plus sailing was stellar air conditioning. Strong winds and 6 foot waves made for a grand tour of this enormous blue water lake. Do you know the difference between a salty and a laker?

This public poem at the marina seemed powerfully perfect:


Tuesday I biked out to Fort Williams Historic Park. The live action fur trade fort was in full rendezvous, circa 1816. College kids get their drama club yayas out, greeting visitors in costume with Salud, and after sharing some lore or tale about their role in the camp bid aurevoir. I learned the difference, again, between a teepee (movable, many year structure made from hide) and a wigwam (permanent structure made from birch bark and pine boughs).

The site builds a new birch bark canoe annually.  I sat with the master builder in awe. Wood shavings on the floor, wood twine in buckets of water, sinew used only at the cross bars (where the wood twine would break at the bend but wood is perfect elsewhere allowing the bark and twine to expand and contract at the same rates), and scalloped bark in cross grain to prevent twine from splintering the hull. Sealed with a mix of pine sap, bear fat, and charcoal. Over 900 hours, and this one was nearly done.  

Paddling in an old canoe was fun. My totally Canadian adventure. 

The amount of furs at this education/historic center was staggering.  The kid in character said “this is only about 1% of our typical trade capacity here at the fort. During the weeks of rendezvous this store house would be full.” I flipped through a stack of ring seal pelts, saying sorry. I stroked the lynx with love. Circles of beaver stacked higher than their tree stumps. Rabbits, fox, wolves, bear, bison. Hanging, claws curled, or splayed out like a rug. I’m still haunted. While I understand the need for warmth, the fashion industry drove most of the beaver kill for hats. And just as fashion was out, so timely were the beaver, nearly extinct.

Wednesday morning I biked to the busy bike shop to be first in line. I helped Ben take Olive apart to get boxed for the next leg of this journey, one without my own legs. The sleepy Thunder Bay airport took on more and more people as more and more flights were delayed due to thunder storms in Toronto. I became more swift with my phone adjusting last minute housing shifts and making alternative arrangements, and trying to trust that just moving forward was the right thing, even if I didn’t know if I’d have to back pedal at all. Plans, are ephemeral. People are unpredictable, and generous and gracious.  It’s more important to whether there will be any weather than what the weather will be. 

fell asleep on the airport benches, plugged in but trying to unplug from the business, bustle, and boredom. Delayed two hours total and turbulent travel to Toronto, where the flight out of there (a short flight on a huge 767) was delayed, too. I landed, and my bags were there but not my bike. It will be delivered, hopefully, directly to the bike shop I had previously arranged. That’s a bonus. 

So was the incredibly warm welcome I received from warm showers hosts Heather and Chris. 

Travel on!