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Published: June 29th 2018
Levis to Lake George
When I left the campground the morning sun was rising over Ile-D'Orleans where huge towers support the high tension wires that cross the St. Lawrence there. I was on route 132, the highway that follows the south shore of the great river. Along the way I passed through many small towns and larger ones such as Montmargny, a town that has all the usual big chain stores and fast food places that you find anywhere. The smaller places like Berthier-sur-Mer, Cap Sant-Ignace and L'Islet, epitomize an older look - at least in my mind. The highway is also the main street and the houses, all shapes and sizes and ages, crowd up close to it and to each other, like spectators at a parade. Even the smallest villages seem to have a church, generally built of stone with at least one steeple and gleaming tin roof, that seem big enough to contain every resident plus all their possessions, including cars, houses and livestock. I can't imagine what the Roman Catholic Church's real estate holdings are worth - quite a bit. The size and good condition of these churches, most dating from the 1700s, is
testament to the deep faith and devotion of the parishioners. I took a break in the village of L'Islet in a park across the main street from the Quebec Maritime Museum. I had just put my phone away after texting Michele, when I heard a commotion and noticed something flash by in my peripheral vision. A moose ran hell bent for leather down the main street with a bunch of teenage boys in hot pursuit. It has been a couple of years since I've seen a moose at home, a place you'd expect to see moose. Michele saw one near Rossport. It was the last thing I expected to see in downtown I'Islet.
The campground Michele picked for that night was near Riviere Ouelle. I was pedalling against a headwind for the last 20 km of the day and was tired, but as I approached the shore of the St. Lawrence, I detected the unmistakeable smell of the sea and it perked me up. We had progressed to a point far enough downriver that there was a tide. And as I crested the last rise, I saw the tide was out and a large mudflat exposed, from
whence arose that salty, seaweedy aroma. The next day we continued down river through fields and flat litoral areas, some with dykes. I came upon a cyclist named Stephane (the second one by this name I met this journey). He was pulling a trailer, in which there lounged his beagle, Skipper. Stephane has cycled, walked and canoed the width and breadth of Quebec and when it is winter he is skiing it in sections. Another remarkable fellow traveller. In the somewhat eerie and lonely town of Kamarouska, Michele met an antique dealer named Sylvain who had given up his career in advertising to pursue his love of antiques. But only in the summer - Kamarouska, he said, becomes a ghost town in the winter. We lunched in Riviere de Loup, a city that I had no idea was so big, and I climbed the steep hill on which it is built. It was one year to the day that I had to go to the hospital in Nelson to have a big sliver removed from my foot. Nelson is built on the side of a mountain and the hospital seemed to be at the highest point. We joked about the
danger a patient in a wheelchair would encounter. When I finally reached the the top of the river valley in Riviere de Loup, I passed the hospital - maybe it's a rule. We camped that night just outside Riviere de Loup in St. Antonin.
Michele visited a nearby Alpaca farm next morning and traded some silver buttons she had made for some yarn. Though the farmer did not speak English, they somehow pantomimed their way through the negotiation, and both were happy with the deal. She got a tour of the farm and took a lot of photos of the goofy looking animals. We wanted to visit our friends Thom and Janine Landry at their home near Fredricton before they left for a trip out west. They were leaving in 4 days so we had to complete the distance from St. Antonin to Lake George in 3 days. This meant each day I would have to ride around 120 km, so I got an early start and climbed a bunch more hills to get out of the St. Lawrence watershed. At St. Louis de Ha-Ha (yes that is a place and no I don't know what was so funny)
I got back on the Route Vert trail. It was another abandoned rail bed trail and it led me by the beautiful Lake Temiscouata. The trail went either behind or in front of the many beautiful summer homes that line the lake. It was near the end of the day that I passed into New Brunswick and found, after a bit of being lost, our campground in Edmundston. It was at this campground we first encountered the extreme friendliness of New Brunswickers. People would stop at our site just to ask how we were doing. It was even more noticeable the next night at Clearview. Janine had driven up from Lake George to greet us and she stayed for supper. As soon as she left, our neighbours began dropping by in a steady succession. As soon as one would go another would come. They had a pleasant but decidedly unhurried way of speaking, that made me wonder if I would be preparing for the next day's ride after midnight. Lee Paterson took us on a little walk down a nearby path to show us an abandoned church. The door was unlocked and we entered to the sound of a racoon
moving inside a wall cavity. Other than damage done by these critters, the church was as it had been the day it closed years before. There was no vandalism and nothing had been removed. Even the collection box and the candle snuffer were still there. Sadly, I don't think the same respect would be shown where we live. Lee helped me plan my route for the next day. He made sure I would see the birthplace of the McCain's corporation in Florenceville and also the longest covered bridge in the world in Hartland. And he showed me where he lived should I need anything. Friendly and generous indeed.
The great St. John river flows in New Brunswick from Edmundston south then turns east to Fredericton and finally south again to the Bay of Fundy at Saint John. At Florenceville I crossed over to the east side (on Lee's advice) while Michele went on the transcanada on the west side. The Saint John is a large, beautiful river in a large beautiful valley. The valley sides are quite steep, and I spent much of the day climbing up the valley and then back down again on highway 105.
The rail bed by the river had been converted to the transcanada trail, but unfortunately early spring floods had scoured the finer aggregate from stretches of the trail, making it all but unrideable. So I had an uppy-downey day and finally recrossed the river at Nagawic. It was another 20 km or so to the turn off to Lake George where Thom met me with his truck to take me the final 8 km south to their home. There was a "Lake party" going on and we were invited too. Marlene, a neighbour of Thom and Janine, was retiring, and it seemed the whole community was there to help her celebrate. They welcomed us with open arms, as if we were old friends - again that New Brunswick friendliness. There was a pig roast, beer on tap, live music and really good conversation. Later we went back to Thom and Janine's home, which they designed themselves especially for their retirement. It is a lovely house with great views of the lake and we spent a comfortable night there in a real bed! Thank you Thom and Janine for your hospitality.
Next up: Fredericton and beyond, the ocean
at last and the cutest little province you ever did see.
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