After looking at many options including visiting Manitoulin Island and Algonquin Provincial Park, I decided to play the next stage by ear. Time to move on from the Great Lakes. I broke camp early in The Soo and headed east, continuing on the Trans Canada Highway. Once out of Sault Ste Marie the beautiful drive continued through forests, across meadows, beside the Serpent River and eventually wound through Sudbury and North Bay toward the Ottawa Valley. In Whanapitae I pulled into a fuel station—a gas bar as they call ’em here—since I caught the surprisingly low price of $1.27 per liter of diesel out of the corner of my eye. And it came with a friendly old guy doing the pumping. Took the opportunity to grab a wrap at Subway and send Julie a happy birthday text. I was enjoying the drive so I checked the distance to Montreal and decided to go for it: a seven hour run. It was a good call because, even though the countryside was still quite pretty, it started to kinda look the same and, unless I was going canoeing in the provincial park, there wasn’t much more to see or do. The last hour of my twelve-hour trip was long but not grueling. A toll operator at the St. Lawrence River toll bridge welcomed me to Montreal and waived the toll! Have I mentioned the friendly people? It was a long day on the road: Twelve hours, 616 miles/986 kilometers. I checked into the KOA for four nights, ready to check out the city of Montreal and spend a day or two knocking around town.
My first full day I roamed around Old Town and Old Port, taking in sights, smells and sounds. I generally love the older parts of a city and Montreal was no exception. Really a cool place where language is not an issue, as most restaurant and pub employees speak perfect English—about 57% of the city population is at least bi-lingual, if not able to speak three languages. As Americans, we suck at that.
By the way, Siri did a superb job getting me from the KOA to the metro station 15 miles away at Longuieul. Seems every major road in Montreal is under construction and since the road signs were little more than an undecipherable jumble of letters, Siri got me around and through the construction detours. It was a time I really loved the little B in the Box.
My wanderings took me through a couple microbreweries, both pretty cool places. Had french fries in the first pub; seemed like the thing to do… It surprised me how fast the time went and I headed back to camp before it got too dark; just didn’t want to chance the myriad detours at night solo. But the next day after “attending” trailer church I headed back to the city and, yes, hopped on and off one of those London-style double decker buses. Never done that before and I gotta say, it was actually pretty cool. Beautiful day sitting up-top and the guides were very informative and entertaining. A solid $52 Canadian bucks spent. Beautiful city.
Monday I just putzed around camp, took care of a few cleaning and maintenance issues and got more coffee at Costco just a few miles away. Felt like home!
Tuesday I headed north for the short drive to Quebec City. Fairly unremarkable drive on an interstate-like highway. When I was setting up at the KOA I noticed one of my four trailer tires was down to no tread in spots. (I’d had to stand on the brakes way back on I-20 in East Texas in May and knew I’d left some rubber scars on the highway but it still mystifies me why only one tire took the hit.) Tried to change it myself but turns out I didn’t have a cross wrench that fit and I could not budge the lugs; the large wrench for my truck is 7/8″ while the trailer lugs are 3/4″. So I put my AAA membership work for me. Less than an hour later, the spare was on and the bad tire & wheel were in my truck bed. In the morning I visited a tire shop a kilometer from the campground and in less than ten minutes (but $160 in Canadian money) later I had a new tire on the primary rim. I’d switch the spare and primary myself because I went and got a cross wrench at a local Napa shop. Bad call. More on that later.
After the tire shop visit I joined a group going into the city on a shuttle. I dunno… Quebec City just didn’t blow my skirt up like Montreal did. Sure, the cobblestone streets are cool and the boardwalk is cool and the citadel is impressive. I guess I was just off my feed thanks to the tire hassle and rain that caught me walking between brew pubs. Nice enough City, but I was ready to move on. So… when I got back to camp I set about swapping the wheels.
Bad call. I guess a grain of sand got inside a lug nut and I guess the lugs are pretty soft stuff. I managed to strip not just the lug nut but the stud too, dammit. Got the wheel mounted but with just 5 of the 6 lugs in place. In the morning on my out out of town I stopped by the tire shop and the friendly guy there (the kid who spoke English) tried to get that lug back in business but just didn’t have the tools. He thought the stud would need to be replaced but said I’d be good to roll on just the five secured studs. So I rolled on.
But, dammit, I wasn’t comfortable. Every time I looked in the mirror I thought I saw a wobble or anytime I felt a minor movement by the trailer I was sure the damn wheel was launching. So, for peace of mind I stopped into another tire shop in a town a couple hours north. They couldn’t fit me in but recommended a local RV shop. Instead, I searched up an RV shop closer to my destination, just 30 minutes away. They couldn’t help either, but sent me to a really small one-man garage in the village of Saint Simon. I was willing to give it a shot. I wanted resolution.
The owner mechanic, Guillaume Quellet—William in English—speaks perfect French. I speak (when I wish to!) perfect English. So after some pointing and nodding and smiling he quickly set to work. I love this guy! He re-threaded the stud, drove 20 minutes away to buy a new lug nut (plus a couple spares) and within 90 minutes I was securely on my way for probably 1/4 what an RV shop visit wudda cost. I tipped him two beers worth. I suppose I shouldn’t have mentioned that Guillaume is the French equivalent of my middle name and my dad’s name because that took more pointing and gesturing. Kinda funny.Anyway, he’d made a few unexpected bucks cash and I was happy and securely on my way again. Have I mentioned how friendly the people are? Truly loving Canada!
Aside from the mechanical faux pas, the drive was very nice through verdant fields with great views of the Saint Lawrence River. From what I understand the drive tomorrow to Gaspé is even better. So now, sitting atop a hill looking at other hills and the lake below, with a campfire holding off the evening chill, I’m wrapping up this post. I’ve got another day in the province, six hours northeast on the top of the peninsula followed by six hours back south to Bathurst, New Brunswick. Then looking forward to Prince Edward Island. Talk to you soon!