Fingerbanging along the Gaspé peninsula PART THREE: Rimouski to Percé

We are officially less than 48 hours away from boarding our plane to Helsinki. Our house is in shambles and my uterus is doing that foreboding pre-bleed flexing. (At least i’ll be traveling with a non-menstruater so there is no chance of second period on this trip). My romantic affiliate was up til all hours of the night doing last minute packing, so I was up obscenely early to write this blog post do other important things.

BUT. I need to finish my first story before I go on to the next one.

Okay. Up until this point the ground was pretty flat and we made good time. In my memory, the moment we passed Rimouski, the ground shot up into the heavens and I spent the next several days cycling in a gravity defying vertical line. Without the adequate gearing, I was forced to stand up on my bike and push down with my legs for a solid 30 second stretch at a time while Jon shot up into the sky. (He would inevitably always reach the top before me, and then send me encouraging texts while I stared dismayed at the next bend wondering if it was finally over).

 

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Beach camping

Aside from the hills, our route was easy -we just followed the 132-Ouest and kept the water on our left side. We stayed with some friends in Matane and actually took a motel in St.Anne-des-Monts (because we do not bike in the rain if we can help it), but aside from that we slept on beaches (and once drunkenly in a pit) all the way to Gaspe.

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This is LITERALLY what we were staring at 90% of the time. Gah.

We eventually made it to Gaspé and stayed two nights with a lovely host from Warm Showers who lived at the top of a steep hill (obviously). While this was originally our final destination, I was admittedly underwhelmed and we still had a week before we needed to be home. So, we made the executive decision to keep on biking all the way to Percé.

You may recognize its big rock:

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The big rock of Percé

To get there, we took this hilarious shortcut and walked/cycled over an abandoned(?) railway track. That night we slept on our own private beach and were visited by a curious seal. Itwassomagical.

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RIGHT.

Once in Percé we did the classy thing of pitching our tent in a closed-for-the-season campground behind a micro-brewery and definitely overstaying our welcome. It’s a cute tourist town, definitely worth the off-season stay.

Upon learning we could not catch a bus from this clearly on-the-map tourist town (camon Quebec), we biked another 45km to a small town, bought bus tickets and camped behind a gas station dumpster in order to be sure we would catch the 7:00am bus. (We did, barely). And then we sat, grumpy as fuck, watching our 3 week bike tour go by in the span of 8 hours.

Oh, also at some point Jon became the leader.

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“Mal, I found a conch. I’m the leader now.”
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Fingerbanging along the Gaspé peninsula PART TWO: Some things we did on the way to Rimouski, IN PICTURES!

Pssst, guys.

Wanna hear a bike touring secret?

I had no idea until this last trip, but if you tour in the fall everything belongs to you.

I shit you not. We had our own private beaches. Our own private no-charge camp site behind a microbrewery (on multiple occasions). Our own private parks. Sometimes even our own private roads.

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My own private meat counter.

So yes. We very stylishly left Quebec City in a boat which delivered us back to the south shore of the St. Laurent. Here we jumped on and off the TransCanada until about Rimouski, about another 300km.

It was not uneventful. For instance, we met this man, who is old enough to be my grandfather, yet disappeared over the horizon while we very much did not disappear over the horizon.

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We also found this thing. Omen or artwork, we weren’t sure. But it spun okay.

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And we took shelter from the rain in this barn.

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We were assholes in Trois-Pistoles.

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And we watched seals in Le Bic

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Oh, also I walked my bike up this mean hill.

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And then, 300ishkm later, ta-da RIMOUSKI.

If memory serves me correctly, Rimouski was the last place I remember before the hills  really started. It’s a cute enough town by the water. We visited a local microbrewery, stayed in the ‘burbs with our lovely warmshowers host and terrorized the local Walmart (because by this point we were feral cycletourists and you couldn’t take us anywhere).

We will return to the past in my next post, BUT GUESS WHAT. We are presently gearing up for a three month tour through Scandinavia and northern Europe. Quit our jobs? Check. Buy new rain gear? Check. Dehydrate EVERYTHING? Check.

For the first time EVER I am going to attempt to keep this blog updated in real-time. So you (is anyone out there?) can bare witness to our flats and sunburns and stroopwafles. Fingers and toes crossed.

 

Fingerbanging along the Gaspé peninsula PART ONE: Montreal to our great nation’s capital.

So it’s FINALLY spring here in Montréal.

Following last year’s sweaty winter under the Indian sun, this winter felt like an eternity (seriously, these are the scenes of our city from just last month). So in a world where shoulder season (apparently defined as travel period between peek and off-peek seasons; by this logic, I would consider the entire span of November-April as one long shoulder season) still means parkas and boots and sticky metro rides and all of that snow that you apparently just can’t ignore out of existence, I’ve had my fingers crossed that come April 1st I would not feel seasonally pressured to throw more money into our once novel transit system (ie BIKING WEATHER).

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Pre-season tune-ups

Now we’ve swapped snow clouds for rain clouds. BUT. Once upon a time it was warm and sunny and I was biking, biking, biking. Once upon a September 1st 2015, my now-partner (then almost-partner) set off with our bikes all packed, in the direction of the now near-mystical Gaspe. I had recently sold or packed away all of my worldly belongings, quit my job, and had a flight booked to Mumbai for October 1st, so I was feeling especially light and liberated.

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Like I said, light and liberated.

Our route basically took us along the south shore of the fleuve St Laurent.

(Bonus knowledge! A fleuve is not a rivière. A rivière flows into another river, while a fleuve flows right into the ocean or the sea.)

After leaving the island several hours post-sunrise, we crossed the same highway multiple times on these very safe and convenient ramp and stair combos.  Once we made our way inland, the 300km ride to Quebec City was exactly the melange of farmland and poutine that you might expect.

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HOLLA

The roads were pretty quiet, it was sunshiney and we had all of the choice campsites. Being that both my cycling partner and I prefer late mornings and lots of food stops, doing the 100km a day we needed to have us in Quebec City for the weekend was a bit of stretch. BUT WE DID IT. JUST IN TIME FOR PRIDE.

A note about cycling touring in Quebec: Like much of Canada, this province is huge and sparsely populated between cities (even the in-between towns are super sleepy). That said, as long as you’re not a complete asshole, the don’t ask, don’t tell mentality will ensure that you always have a decent campsite with a privacy and sometimes a view.

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Dismounting for passage to our private suite with a farmland view.

We arrived in Quebec just as the sun was setting on day three. After a little bit of navigation we found our wonderful Warm Shower hosts (as well as their adorable cats with leashes). If I remember correctly, they greeted us with the standard WS hospitality (beers and showers first, food and conversation later), and so kindly hosted us for the weekend, helped us with minor bike repairs and toured us around their beautiful city.

GUYS. Even if a tour along the Gaspé Peninsula seems like a stretch, definitely consider the Montreal-Quebec City mini-trip. It was flat, pretty quiet and scattered with bike lanes or wide shoulders along the way.

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Montreal to Quebec to Gaspe to Perce

 

Mountain biking and other cottage adventures.

Last week I spent five fabulous days cottaging in the Laurentians in a little place called Lac-du-Cerf.  When I wasn’t  by the water soaking up sunshine and forgetting about reality, I was either re-learning how to use a bar-B-Q or making another drink.   

Working hard.
 
I also swapped potholes for sandtraps and saddled up with this cute little number for my first-ever extreme mountain biking experience.
 
Cottage cycling
 
Just like street cycling, off-road biking comes with its own set of rules.  At the risk of sounding like a complete dweeby novice (which I am), I am going to share a few things I learned that will help you survive your first mountain biking trip.
 
Rule #1: Bugspray.
Do yourself a favor and bathe in the stuff before you trek out into the woods because you will soon have a million buzzing insect sucking your blood and flinging into your nose and eyeballs.   Better yet, bring a bug net, or a friend who is more tasty than you.  The only good thing about the bugs is they kept us cycling at break-neck speed to try to outrun the little buggers.
 
Here goes nothing.
 Rule #2: Don’t stop peddling
Not only does this tip help to keep black flies from nesting in your ears, it also helps keep you on your velo.  Loose rocks and sandy patches are everywhere and if you slow down at the wrong time you are inevitably going to have your tires slip out from under you.  It is worth mentioning her that sand patches are great skidding, whether intentionally or accidentally.
 
Rule #3: There are no rules
No stop signs, no traffic, no crosswalks, no hand signals, no roads and no bike lanes. Occasionally you run into a few obstacles (see below), but aside from that anything goes.
 
Occasional obstacle
 
Of course, mountain biking isn’t the only way to be your own fuel and travel sustainably at Deer Lake:
 
kayaking -like cycling, but for your arms.
 
Sometimes the wind is your friend.
 
 
Hiking last fall.