Voyager Jusqu’à Montréal & Quebec City

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.

Montreal

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!

Yikes!
Yikes!

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.

Quebec City

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!

Gasping in Gaspé

It was 10:06am. I’d been on the road right at two hours and it occurred to me I had no idea how many times I’d already thought—or said out loud—”God, this is so beautiful!” The drive from Saint Simón north up highway 132 for the most part hugs the shore of the Saint Lawrence River and then the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. It’s truly a wonderful road and it’s a wonder I didn’t drive off it because I couldn’t keep my eyes from looking at the incredible scenery. While it’s different, Quebec Highway 132 rivals Highway 1 in northern California. What an absolute pleasure to experience this byway. I took my time and eventually made my way to a cool little campground near Parc National Peninsula Forillon at the northeast tip of the huge peninsula. It was a 250 mile drive over the course of about seven  hours and, no kidding, every bit of it was fantastic. Man, oh, man it was nice!

After I settled into the site—without disconnecting it was just a five minute chore—I took the short walk 75 steps down a wood staircase to the seashore. Really pretty and cool to imagine how big the waves can get to toss trees up onto the higher surf line. While this day was gorgeous, I imagine it can get rather raw out there! In total lazy mode, dinner was a repeat of the pork loin I’d grilled the night the before and prepared pasta salad I had picked up at at the grocery store. Paired withed a tasty Blackwells stout from nearby Microbrasserie Au Frontibus, which I picked up at the campground store, I was a happy camper. Watched a downloaded episode of Better Call Saul before hitting the hay.

Saturday I completed my cirque of the Gaspé Peninsula, heading south down the east side, following the coastline as it curved its way around many large bays formed by the lobster-claw shape of the land mass. Very cool little villages and towns, mixed with forests and river crossings. The scenery never got dull. About 1:30/2:30 I left Quebec Province in my mirrors and crossed the Rivière Ristigouche (at least that’s what it looks like in small print on a crinkled map) into New Brunswick and the Atlantic time zone.

With a choice of continuing to hug the shoreline or taking the slightly inland and faster Highway 11, I opted for the latter, ready to find camp. About 20 minutes into that road I came upon a wreck that had just happened. A car had gone off into the ditch & trees and was on fire. Since six or eight cars had already stopped, I figured I couldn’t add much to the aid effort other than to lift up a prayer for everyone’s well being. I knew it was the best thing to do.

Outside the town of Bathurst I stayed in a campground that was, how do I put this properly . . . Twilight Zoneish. Funky little restaurant from the ’60s or early 70s maybe, creepy miniature golf course, lots of long-term campers, some with not just decks and patios but ponds, fountains, dog runs. And, in August, lots of Halloween decorations! In for just the night again (thankfully!), I pulled onto my assigned site and left the truck and B coupled together (except I always disconnect the power tether while parked for a while, never knowing what kind of “power play” B might make when I’m not paying attention!).

Overall, my tour of Gaspé Peninsula added right at 400 kilometers (roughly 250 miles) at a fuel cost of $252. Worth every fuel sucking cent! In the morning I’m attending trailer church and then heading out for a few days, give or take, on Prince Edward Island, my next major stop!