|Time of Year
|Miles per Day
Daily Tour Log
The Gaspe Peninsula at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec combines many elements for a good bicycle tour: dramatic scenery, proximity to several rivers and the ocean, historic places, well-spaced towns, good variety of tourist facilities without big crowds, another language and country, and friendly and helpful people. Geologically it is the northern tip of the Appalachian Mountains, and the interior has rugged peaks capped with snow into the summer. The Gaspesie Tourist Guide conveniently divides the peninsula into four descriptive areas: the River, Land?s End, the Bay, and the Valley. There are two possible loops; one of 890k (550 miles) including the Valley, and one of 630k (390 miles) that cuts through the Chic-Choc Mountains.
Quebec Tourism publishes the very helpful Gaspesie Tourist Guide for free It has good information on sightseeing, campgrounds, motels, B&B?s, and restaurants. A $2 map of the Gaspesie is available at any tourist office, and is much better than the small map in the guide.
Starting Point Campbellton, New Brunswick, is probably most convenient for people coming from the northeastern United States. 17k east of Point-a-la-Croix (across the river) is an excellent hostel and fascinating castle at Pointe-a-la-Garde (see Auberge du Chateau Bahia in guide), with a variety of accommodations and good food at very reasonable prices, that would make a good starting and ending point. They also speak English and German.
Time of Year I went in June, when most (but not all) tourist facilities are open, weather is comfortably cool, and the roads and tourist places are not crowded. September would be another ideal time; later than that it gets colder and places start to close.
Weather In June it was warm to comfortably hot in the Valley and comfortably cool all around the rest of the loop near the water. Except for the Valley, I wore tights and 2 jerseys all day every day. Nights were comfortably cool for camping, but never cold. Official weather forecasts were very poor. Weather changed quickly without much warning. The proportion of rain seemed similar to New England. In 12 days I had 4 nights with some rain, one afternoon of heavy cold rain, and one afternoon of scattered showers.
Bugs At this time of year there were only a few mosquitoes around the coastal sections. Close to the salt water and the wind there were almost none; a few hundred yards inland with fields and woods there were some. Stopping in the Valley, however, was different. Camping in Amqui (inland with lots of fresh water, fields, and woods) the mosquitoes were very annoying. Riding during the day was never a problem.
Roads and Traffic Route 132 goes all around the peninsula. Road condition varies from fair to good. It is all 2lane. Almost half the time there is a paved shoulder, although I spent most of the time on the road. About half of the time there is only a hard packed cinder/dirt shoulder, which you want to use only when necessary. Cars can pass OK, and trucks will go around you if nothing is coming the other way. The problem occurs when a truck wants to pass you and traffic is coming the other way. Trucks will NOT slow down and wait; it seemed best to slow down and get onto the shoulder. This happened to me once or twice per hour in June. Truck traffic decreases as you go around Land's End, but there is a fair amount of it as you head west towards more population. I consider some kind of mirror ESSENTIAL for both safety and peace of mind.
Wind Most people recommend riding clockwise. Along the St. Lawrence River prevailing winds are out of the west, and they can easily blow 1020 mph. However, wind can come from the east before bad weather moves in. Around the rest of the route there were lots of local winds in various directions.
Hills The Land's End section is hilly, averaging about 75 feet/mile. The rest of the loop is similar to New England riding at about 30 feet/mile. Hills can be steep; grades of 12 15% are common, but most hills are short. One was 17% for 1k near Perce.
Language It is very helpful, but not necessary, to speak some French. People in tourist offices speak English, but not many others do. Even in restaurants and lodging places, there is not much English.
Prices Compared to many other areas where I have toured in the United States and Europe, I found prices to be very reasonable. I averaged $(US) 32 per day travelling alone, which included indoor lodging 5 nights out of 11 and meals in restaurants when weather was bad.
Highlights When I do this trip again, I will plan it around the following key places:
- MontSaintePierre at Km 210: small isolated town along the cliffs of Lands End with hostel, camping, restaurant; center for hanggliding, mountain biking, and other adventures (and adventurers)
- Forillon National Park at Km 356: beautiful park with camping and good hostel nearby; visitor centers, hiking, boat trips, etc.
- Perce at Km 472: beautiful small town with good camping, B&B's, restaurants, and boat trips to nearby islands.
- Auberge du Chateau Bahia at Km 703: fascinating, fun people, good food, reasonable prices; hostel on road and castle up the hill in the woods.
||Gaspé Peninsula Log June, 1997
Tuesday, June 17 NotreDameduLac
Off at 6:15 for ten hour drive to Quebec. Weather was cloudy with occasional sun and drizzle. Went north on Rt 11 through northern Maine. I expected rolling potato farms, but found a straight hilly road through wooded area. This Aroostook and Fish River Road was built by the army during the early 1800's to connect the 'population centers' of northern Maine to the U.S. so the British couldn't easily take them over.
At the big visitor center entering Quebec I discovered there is a bike trail that runs on an old narrow gauge railroad 125 km from Edmunston to RiviereduLoup on the St. Lawrence. I was nervous about the hard packed cinder, but they thought it would be OK.
Plan A was to stay in Degelis at the bottom of Lake Temiscouata, but the campground was buggy with no good place to leave the car. On to Notre Dame du Lac, which had a nice municipal campground overlooking the lake and a regional office of the provincial police. An English speaking police officer suggested parking at the garage across the highway. As I was pondering this option before talking with the garage, the officer came running about 100 yards across the highway to tell me he had checked with his supervisor and I could park at the police station. However, they could not assume responsibility for the car, but I could have cared less about that. This was one of many examples of the friendly and helpful people I met.
Wednesday, June 18 TroisPistoles (83 mi, 1978 ft, 12 mph)
Awoke to thick fog at 6:30. By the time I left at 7:30 I could see patches of blue and sun above, but I could see very little of the lake for the first 14 k to Cabano. Trail turns out to be OK. It's just a little soft, but level; and I can do 18 k/hr. It feels like a good way to warm up on the first day with a very heavy bike.
There are very few bikes or people out on this weekday morning. I am surprised that people say "hello" rather than "bon jour," because it's obvious that French is the main language. Employees in government tourist offices speak English, some employees in restaurants and other tourist operations speak shaky English, but most people speak only French. It took me about a half hour to figure out why people were using "hello" with me: I was wearing a helmet! Although many children wear helmets, few adults do.
After Cabano the grade increases for the next 30 k over the divide. I am reminded that this whole peninsula is the most northern part of the Appalachian Mountains. The trail goes through different types of beautiful countrylakeside, woods, fields, along riversbut after a couple of hours I get tired of it and long for the hard surface of the road.
I did the last 30 k into RiviereduLoup on the main roadwhich is the Trans Canadian Highway. Traffic is light, the shoulder is wide and smooth, it feels good to roll faster, and it's mostly downhill at this point. However, I sense a wind shift from the northeast, which is not the tailwind I had been promised.
In town I was surprised by a beautiful waterfall, which made a great lunch stop. Then I turn northeast directly into the wind and start plowing up the St. Lawrence River. The main highway Route 20 carries the heavy traffic and the old highway Route 132 is quiet and pleasant through the historical and picturesque vacation town of Cacouna.
At 1 PM and 100 k I'm feeling tired and annoyed at the headwind. I realize this is the toughest time of day and stop at a convenience store, but nothing looks tasty. My shoulder is hurting from the driving yesterday, and it seems to be getting worse instead of better. I want to turn around and go with the wind.
I plow on, and things get worse. Route 20 ends and joins our roadadding all the traffic and big trucks. A few kilometers later the paved shoulder ends, and I'm left with a hard packed cinder gravel shouldersimilar to the bike trail. There is room for cars to pass in both directions. Trucks can go around me if nothing is coming the other way. If cars are coming the other way, the trucks blow by about two feet away from me. As they first approach, they blow me away; but then they suck me in towards them. I have to be very careful when they are passing. I would never want to do this route without a mirror. When a truck overtakes me and another truck is coming the other way, I slow down and get off onto the shoulderwith or without a blast from the air horn.
The shoulder situation varies around the whole peninsula. I estimate there is a paved shoulder about 40% of the time. The good news is that the traffic gets lighter as I get farther out the peninsula, but then of course it builds again coming back on the south side. Cars with trailers and RVs are pretty polite. They often wait to pass meperhaps because they are relaxed and friendly, or perhaps because they don't want to mess up their vacation by running over a cyclist. Truckers are neither relaxed nor friendly. I suspect trucks and bikes are just natural enemies in this area. No matter who is right or wrong, I would not want to test the situation in a local court with the French language and a local trucker trying to earn a living vs. a tourist from 'away.'
Finally I reach the information office at TroisPistolesmy planned destination for the day. The woman informs me that the wind is usually from the west, but the wind out of the northeast is the normal precursor of bad weather. Swellshe thinks it will arrive tomorrow.
I find the municipal campground right on the river, check in, and find a beautiful site overlooking the river. I ride 3 k into town to buy food and return to my site just as it starts to rain. I hustle over to a shelter over several picnic tables and cook supperhoping the shower will end soon. I decide to set up the tent right under this shelter, right on the crushed rock ground surface. I'm very glad I have a free standing tent that doesn't need to be staked.
Supper was great. I bought 300 g (10.5 oz) of hamburg without thinking carefully, but I had no trouble eating all of it. I also accepted a sample of TroisPistoles 'biere forte' at the market and liked it so much that I bought a bottle.
After supper the rain let up and I set my priorities: call Lyn, shower, set up tent, wash dishes. I biked a half mile to the rec center by the entrance and called Lyn. Then I noticed a shower in the rec hall, so I pulled my bike inside and took a very long hot shower. There was also a nice kitchen, and I thought about breakfast here. I thought about sleeping here too, but all my stuff was back at the site. I had to wait a while for the rain to let up again, and then I dashed back to my shelter to set up the tent. Never got to the dirty dishes. Slept fine all night as the rain pounded on the shelter roof and all my stuff stayed dry.
Thursday, June 19 MetissurMer (79 mi, 2395 ft, 15 mph)
Stayed in bed until 7:30 listening to the rain and wondering what to do. The bathroom was calling pretty loud and clear, so I got up, cleaned the dishes, and made breakfast. By this time the rain had stopped, and it looked OK to ride. I decided I'd rather risk some rain than hole up here on the second day.
A couple my age had come in on bikes with trailers and a dog the night before, but the woman had not been very able or interested in talking. After breakfast, however, her husband came over and we had a great conversation. This is their first bike tour, and they are out for five months. They camped in all the rain last night, and were amazed at how clever I was to camp under the shelter. Unfortunately, they did not have a free standing tent and could not have done it anyway. He is a chain smoker, and today they rode here from Cacouna (about 35 k). They plan to stay here for three days to rest up. Generally they camp in the wild or ask permission to camp in peoples' yards. They know they can't make it around the hills of the Gaspe, so they are planning to head southeast to New Brunswick where they will look for a new place to live.
However, he did have a more detailed map than I had, and he showed me some low traffic roads to avoid the main Route 132. I stalled as I packed up and finally left at 9:45 with little enthusiasm. But I learned many times on this trip that when things look terrible, they often get much better. And when things look great, they often get worse.
Before leaving town I visited the church. Although it had a tacky linoleum floor, the columns and ceiling were gorgeous. Someone was practicing on the organ and filled the church with music. I am always baffled and impressed at how a town of 5,000 can build and support an impressive church like this. I have seen this in many Acadian towns in both Quebec and Nova Scotia.
For a couple of hours I rode a ridge through rolling farm country parallel to the river with great views over the river to the North Coast. Cloudy and dark in the hills to my right and clearing and blue sky over the river to my left, I wondered which weather would win. The weather over me gradually improved, and it was sunny and comfortable with a good tailwind by the time I reached SaintFabien. This is the best of all worlds, since I now expected that a wind out of the west also brings good weather.
Since the parallel detour was now quite an additional distance, I stuck with the main highway and flew along at 40 k/hr to Bic National Park. A detour through the park was quiet, pleasant, and moderately scenic. Then a detour through the town of Bic with great views of a pretty harbor and another detour through the big commercial town of Rimouski.
It got cloudy as I left Rimouski with heavy traffic. Do I trust my eyes, or do I count on the great west wind to bring good weather? I detoured through SaintLuce with a pleasant snack stop on the beach promenade and a visit to another beautiful church with linoleum floor and gorgeous stained glass windows The road runs right along the shore here with nice detours on the old road through small pretty towns.
I arrived at my planned destination of SaintFlavie, but the campground was a wide open grass strip sandwiched between the main highway and the beach and next to a big tourist lobster restaurant. Tempting, but the wind, noise, and lack of privacy convinced me to move on. The information center helped me decide to go another 23 k to MetissurMer.
Camping Annie was a little off the road with great grass and woods around the edge to protect from the wind. As usual, I had the tenting area almost to myself, and there were only a few trailers and RVs in the rest of the campground. 25 cents for a two minute shower led to a very short shower, but I had another great dinner with perfect weather. I took a nice mile walk down to the beach and watched the sun going down. Then I sat in my tent to write and avoid the moderate mosquitoes. Great sleeping. It gets light about 3, and the sun was shining in my tent at 4:30.
Friday, June 20 CapChat (79 mi, 2386 ft, 15 mph)
I stayed in bed and dozed until 6:15. It was toasty in my tent and cool outside. I'm glad I brought my warm sleeping bag. It is perfect for this weather. I have yet to ride in shorts.
I'm off at 7:30 on a beautiful day with a light tailwind. The main highway now bypasses many small towns, so I took the old road through these delightful towns. MetissurMer has a small Protestant church and a lot of summer homes for English speaking residents. Most towns have very plain homes and a huge Roman Catholic church. Although I saw mostly modest homes, nowhere in the Gaspe did I see the poverty that I had been led to expect. However, I noticed that many people heat with wood, and most homes had huge neatly stacked piles of firewood.
Many homes also fly the Quebec flag; very few fly the Canadian flag. I was more surprised by the relatively large number (5%) of Canadian flags than by all the Quebec flags. I naively assumed everyone is a separatist, but neither the elections nor my limited sample of individuals supports this assumption. The elections have been very close, and the large majority of my small sample wants to stay a province of Canada.
I stopped in the last large town of Matane for information, huge supermarket, and pancakes. I had also hoped to find a good bakery, but I learned that the best bakeries are in the huge supermarkets. The small markets and even boulangeries buy bread products from the commercial bakeries, while the large supermarkets often bake their own. Several times I was able to get a warm loaf of raisin breadhalf of which would disappear before it cooled.
The first 72 k was relatively flat (17 ft/mi) riding right along the river with lots of farms. The tailwind continued to increase, and by midday I was flying again. About GrossesRoches it became noticeably more hilly (49 ft/mi) for the rest of the day. The scenery also became more wooded and less farms.
I arrived at CapChat, my destination for the day, at 2:30, feeling good. I was tempted to continue on to SaintAnnedesMonts, but a great looking campground on the east side of town convinced me to stop. I was the only one in the tent area, and I took a site just above the beach, next to a row of protective bushes, and 200 yards from the road. The surf on the beach drowned out any road noise, and I could sit at different distances from the bushes to optimize protection from wind vs enough wind to keep mosquitoes away. I could look south to the ChicChoc Mountains and see lots of snow left in the ravines. The highest peaks are over 4,000 feet, as this whole peninsula is the northern start of the Appalachian Mountains. Great sunset and sunrise. In the evening I walked along the beach for a mile or more.
The wind gradually died down, and I sat in the tent to write and read. It got quite cool during the night, and socks and hat felt good.
Saturday, June 21 MadeleineCentre (70 mi, 1847 ft, 13 mph)
After a great sunrise, the sun rose above clouds, never to be seen again. Much of the riding today was right along the river with cliffs rising several hundred feet on my right. About every 10 miles was an indent in the shoreline, a harbor, and a small town at the mouth of a valley. Winds became erraticoften blowing warm down the valley and out to the river, so I would have trouble coming into a town and then blow out easily. This is just the opposite from what I would expect.
By late morning I was getting showers. Sometimes I would find a covered picnic table and stop for a while; other times I just plowed on. As I moved out the peninsula, towns became smaller, traffic lighter, and accommodations and stores more scarce. There was a tempting and interesting gite that looked like it was associated with a small church retreat center, but it wasn't even noon and 68 k. I stopped in MontSaintPierre for water and snack at the sports center (hang gliding, diving, mountain biking, etc), and in hindsight wished I had stopped there and stayed at the hostel in town. Although the town is tiny, it's in a beautiful spot and is a mecca for adventurers.
But the rain let up and I rode on. I wanted to do 130 k and reach GrandVallee tonight, so I can make it to Gaspe tomorrow. And I kept thinking: when the weather looks bad, it often gets better.
At 2 PM and 100 k in the first of the three villages of Madeleine the rain seemed to become both heavy and cold. Where is shelter when you need it most? There is always a town hall, school, store, church, or something where you can get out of the rain; but here there was nothing. I was thinking of knocking on a door and asking to sit on someone's porch, when I found a service station with an open bay. In my best French I asked if I could rest here, and the man agreed. Our conversation was basic, but I learned that there were big hills ahead and he had no idea what the weather might do.
After a half hour, the rain let up and I decided to move on at least 10 k to the second of the Madeleine villages, where there is a motel. Along the way the rain picked up again, and I was wet and cold when I arrived at MadeleineCentre. I was not happy to find the motel closed. Since there was nothing else there, I rode another 6 k to RiviereMadeleine and another closed motel. In minor desperation I stopped in another gas station at the far end of town. This man spoke some English and was very friendly and helpful. He called up the owner of the motel back in MadeleineCentre, who said she would meet me there and give me a room. A customer at the gas station gave me a ride back 6 k up the hill in his pickup, and I had a home for the night. I turned the electric heat up to 85, had a very long hot shower, and then a very long hot tub with Le Boss. They must have wondered about their electric bill.
In the evening it cleared up, and I walked 1 k to a tiny restaurant (snack stand?) with two tables inside. I first ordered BBQ chicken with fries, but then asked if she could change that and give me the BBQ chicken with spaghetti. Somehow we miscommunicated, and she brought me two dinners. I was annoyed at first, but then I had no trouble eating and enjoying both dinners. The total bill was US$ 9.
Sunday, June 22 CapauxOs (79 mi, 7297 ft, 11 mph)
I was up at 6 and snacked on a bagel, banana, yogurt, and quart of OJ. I had a plan to stop in GrandVallee (my original destination) for a breakfast treat. I soon found out how correct they were about the hills. GrandVallee was only 20 k, but it was 450 m of climbing. That is 132 ft/mi! Yesterday I seemed to be going around the headlands between towns/valleys; today I seem to be going over the headlands. Just before dropping into town there is a rest area with a gorgeous view of the town and coast. It's cloudy, but visibility is good.
I stopped at the Cafe des Routiers (Truckers) in town for a delicious breakfast. On the wall was a big picture of a Peterbuilt truck with all its tiny lights electrified and lit up. I was tempted to take a picture, but I didn't want to push my luck too far in this potentially hostile territory. Actually, there were no big trucks out here (how could they make these hills?), and everyone in the cafe was friendly. I had already steeled myself to the possibility that they might not offer pancakes, and they didn't. I was quite happy with a huge ham and cheese omelette with home fries and toast.
The rest of the day was devoted to climbing over headlands. I have never had a climbing day like this. 7,300 feet of climbing for 79 miles, making an average of 93 ft/mi. And the hills were steep! I think I walked parts of five hills today. Weather was cloudy, but visibility was good; and there was no rain.
At 54 k there was a rest area in a lovely cove. Usually I have these places to myself, but today there was a tour bus stopped there. They took a long time to get all the people through the single bathroom. I got lots of strange looks, and only one man ventured over to the picnic table to talk with me. The road then headed inland up a beautiful valley. I climbed gently next to a long thin lake and then a small river, and the temperature warmed up significantly. But not enough to strip down to shorts! Then back out to the gulf (no longer just a river) and another fishing village.
By RiviereauRenard at 91 k and 1 PM I had picked up a very strong headwind. After a long 100 m climb in my granny into this ferocious headwind, I reached the Visitor Center for Fourillon National Park. It's getting to the cranky time of day, and I still have a long way to go. By this time I have given up on reaching Gaspe and plan to stay at the hostel at CapauxOs just beyond the park. The woman at the center is very helpful, and I feel better with a snack, water, and bathroom.
I pedalled downhill into the wind for another 20 k until I made the turn to the west and the Park Interpretation Center. Another nice stop and walk around, and then the final 175 m climb over the spine of the park and into CapauxOs at 4:30. It's just starting to sprinkle, and I'm glad to be inside again.
I showered and then cooked dinner in the common kitchen downstairs. That's where I met one of my roommates, Andre Richard. He was not very friendly at first, but he gradually warmed up and was very friendly. He is a retired government worker from Quebec City on his 14th bike tour of the Gaspe. He rides about 10,000 k/year, just what I do; and he's planning to complete his circumnavigation of North America by riding from Quebec to Florida this fall. We had lots to talk about. I wanted to start out with him the next morning, but he really likes to ride alone and didn't want to.
Monday, June 23 Perce (62 mi, 3248 ft, 12 mph)
It rained a lot during the night, and I was again glad I was inside. The wind was howling before I woke up, but I couldn't tell which direction it was blowing. After a leisurely breakfast, the weather looked promising. Andre promised the wind would blow the bad weather out. I left at 8:30 in light drizzle, fog, and a strong headwind from the northwest. If I could make it 20 k to Marjorique, I would turn at the head of Bay of Gaspe and have a tailwind for the rest of the day. It was tough slogging in 3rd and 4th gear at 15 k/hr.
After the turn it was 30+ k/hr in high gear as the weather cleared. Gaspe at 30 k was a big,, but disappointing commercial town, and I'm glad I never spent the night there. However, the big supermarket was great, and I picked up warm croissants and another hot loaf of raisin bread.
At just the right time at 52 k I came to a beautiful rest area right on the water with trees to protect from the howling tailwind. Great views across the bay to the park.
At 65 k I came around PointSaintPierre and looked across the bay to the pierced rock at Perce. However, I still had to ride 35 k around a big bay. I picked up a quartering headwind that got more annoying as I approached the cranky time of day. I could see the bridge ahead that would change my direction and turn this wind into a quartering tailwind, but as I approached, I realized it was only the railroad bridge. The highway bridge was 6 k farther along. I stopped to snack and rest and then plowed on.
My highway bridge and turn finally came, and I got the tailwind back. 10 k short of Perce I hit a series of 4 killer hills and climbed 220 m (often falling back most of it before the next hill) before descending a 1 k 17% grade into town. It wasn't even fun; I had to ride the brakes and creep down the whole hill. But the views from the top were fantastic.
Perce was the kind of town I had dreamed oflike a smaller version of Camden, Maine without the crowds. It was small enough to walk around easily, and there were many nice restaurants offering specials to the small early season crowds. I set up camp at the very pleasant provincial campground, did my laundry next door, and then walked around town looking for the best dinner deal. I found a delicious fettucini with fruits de la mer, Caesar salad, tons of great bread, raspberry cake, and coffee for US$9. All this at a window table overlooking the bay and the rock.
After dinner I walked out to the point. Although it had been partly cloudy and partly sunny all day, by early evening it was all perfect blue sky. From the elevated point there were great views back over the town, up and down the coast, and out to the rock. The only other couple out there with me pointed out different kinds of whales all over the bay. They were easy to see, but I never would have noticed them. There are many boats that take people out to see whales, birds, and visit both the rock and Bonaventure Island. I finished the evening by treating myself to a pint of Bailey's Irish Cream Ice Cream. It was supposed to go down to 40 at night, but I don't think it did.
Tuesday, June 24 New Carlisle (73 mi, 2858 ft, 14 mph)
I lay in bed until 6:30 enjoying the sunrise. Lots of both clouds and blue sky. I packed up everything except the damp tent and rode off to get some breakfast. At a different restaurant with similar window table and view I had a double breakfast: pancakes, fried eggs, home fries, toast, and coffee all for US$ 8.
Off at 8:30 with a light tailwind and mixture of clouds and sun. Traffic was light with NO big trucks. Later in the morning I found out it's the Feast of St. John, which is a huge holiday in Quebec. Easy riding next to the bay with gently rolling farmland.
Around 11 I can see big dark clouds off my right bow as I'm leaving Chandler. My route turns left ahead, but I can't tell if and how my route and the storm will intersect. There is some lightning coming from the clouds too, and I step up the pace to try to get by. I hit a sprinkle of huge drops, suggesting heavy rain to come; and I pulled in under a roof overhang and waited it out for 30 minutes.
Off again in light rain and changing light wind. I hit several more local showers, sometimes riding through them and sometimes stopping for a snack and a rest. In Shigowake I got nailed before I found a school with a nice porch. In Paspebiac I could see a big one coming, so I stopped under a post office roof for a snack and rest. The rain didn't arrive until I finished, so I waited another 30 minutes.
Off again in light rain. At 4 PM and 118 k in New Carlisle I decide I've had enough dodging showers for the day, and I pull in at the Bellevue Motel. For some strange reason the rooms have big picture windows overlooking the road out front and the bathrooms have tiny windows overlooking the ocean out back. They could have had nice quiet decks out back. I wasn't surprised when it cleared up and the sun came out later in the evening.
Wednesday, June 25 PointealaGarde (75 mi, 2106 ft, 14 mph)
Off at 7:30 into light headwind with hazy clouds in blue sky. Lots of riding right along shore with several beaches. Gentle rolling country with long relatively easy hills. New Richmond looks like it's a big town, but it isn't. Small protestant church and English speaking people are consistent. I missed a good Sobey's in the back of a mall and had to go back a couple of k for it. More good warm bread. Carleton looks like a high class tourist town with several fancy motels and no people around.
At 90 k in SaintOmer I'm getting tired and the trucks and traffic are picking up. It's that time of day again. After a narrow stretch on old narrow road with lots of trucks, I break out on brand new paved road with smooth wide shoulder. This takes me to the Auberge du Chateau Bahia at 2:30. There is a hostel on the road with dorm room for $17 or a shared room in the castle 500 m up in the forest for $19. I opt for the castle and push the bike up a long rough dirt road.
The castle is like a playhouse for adults. Jean has been (and still is) building it for 20 years as he gets additional money. I had a room with three beds in the second floor of one tower, but no one else showed up to share the room. It is quiet up in the forest, and there is a nice view out over the bay. Jean has made lots of mistakes building this on his own, but he's having a lot of fun, and people get a real kick out of it. I wouldn't want to miss it. It started to rain soon after I arrived, and it was good to be indoors again. Most of the time on this trip I have called the weather correctly and/or been lucky. I've only been nailed a few times.
Since Jean serves dinner in the banquet hall at 8 (US$ 7.50), I take a great nap and sleep quite well for almost 3 hours. 13 people show up for dinner, and Jean brings it in from the kitchen and then serves and presides at the head of the table. The food was basic and hearty, if not fancy or inspired. He is independent and talkative in French, German, and English. There are conversations around the table in at least 4 languages I can pick up, but I can only participate in English. I could really only talk with Bodo, a printer from Brussels. He could speak pretty good English, and we talked about computers in printing and the European Union. I was a little surprised that he is not concerned about the free lunch socialist tendencies in France, but he is very concerned with potential danger from Russia.
Thursday, June 26 Amqui (76 mi, 1890 ft, 13 mph)
Great sleeping in the castle tower with lots of rain. Since breakfast would be served down at the house on the road at 8, I had to decide if I wanted to stay another day and sleep and read in the rain or move on. I was tired (and tired of riding in the rain), and this would be a great place to lay over for a day. However, when I went out and downstairs to the bathroom, the weather looked much like it did at CapauxOs. It seemed more drizzle/mist/fog than rain, and I decided to move on.
Since Maria is French, I was not surprised that breakfast was not ready at 8 as advertised. I had a nice time talking with her and Tim. She is a writer living in Paris and has just arranged to have her first novel published. After a while I learn that she is Jean's sister, and she comes over every summer to help him run things for the season. I would love to learn more about this family, but things come out slowly. Tim is on an 18 month tour of the world, having become bored with his family's cattle ranch outside Sydney, Australia. At 8:40 we sat down for a delicious breakfast of thin blueberry pancakes with corn syrup and various homemade fruit preserves. She kept cooking until we were all full, and I finally left about 9:30.
Maria confirmed my suspicion that it was fog and would burn off soon. I left in a light drizzle and light traffic, and the weather improved all morning until it was sunny and warm by 11. I stripped down to shorts for the first time on the trip! I think part of the warmth was due to leaving the bay and heading inland up the Matapedia River valley. I had a light to moderate headwind most of the day with occasional side winds. I am totally unable to understand or predict wind here.
It's very pretty riding up the valley, and a welcome difference from days of riding along the shore. There are several pleasant rest areas along the river. I stopped to talk with three fishermen I heard speaking English. They said the salmon fishing was lousy this year; probably because Spring came very late and was very short. I stopped for a snack and rest at the Matamajaw recreation of an old salmon fishing club in Causapscal. This is a more pleasant town than the more commercial Amqui, but I felt the need to get 25 k further along.
At 4:15 I stopped at the Info Office in Amqui and pulled off my long anticipated and rehearsed feat. A very helpful young woman called ahead to the B&B in SaintNarcisse to make a reservation for me and ask if they could cook me dinner or if I could cook my own dinner there. I never could have pulled off a phone call like this in French. This was the only accommodation between Amqui and my car, it is in the middle of nowhere with no tourist facilities, and I needed to make sure everything was OK.
One more k to a very attractive campground on Lake Matapedia. I first requested a shaded site, but then went back to move to an open site in hopes of fewer mosquitoes. It was an improvement from about 1,000 to 900 mosquitoes. Since heavy clouds were moving in, I scrambled to get the tent set up and get supper cooking. Only after all this work did I pause to use my brain. Since I was once again the only one in the tent area, I decided to walk over and eat in the bathroom. It was very clean with a beautiful big formica counter next to the sinks. It looked more like a designer kitchen; the toilets and showers were in little rooms off the main room, and the ceiling was slatted to a ventilated attic. Screens kept most of the bugs out. I wish I had gone there to cook supper as well.
After supper it cleared, and I sat in the tent to write and read. There are about 30 mosquitoes on the tent screennot the worst I have seen by far, but fairly bad. Slept great on wonderful soft grass. At 2 AM there were no bugs on the screen, but they found me very quickly as I went to the bathroom, and about a dozen came back in the tent with me. I used the flashlight and towel for the standard drill of cleaning out the tent.
Friday, June 27 SaintNarcisse (66 mi, 3724 ft, 12 mph)
There was a half hour shower at 4 AM, and then I was up at 6 to cloudy but nonthreatening weather. However, I decided to move all my stuff down to the bathroom where there was lots of covered area. I cooked and ate a pleasant breakfast in the bathroom, and was surprised by another half hour shower. It was nice to have all my stuff under cover.
Off at 8 to improving weather, and within an hour the sun was out and I was down to shorts again. By early afternoon it was a perfect warm summer day. Lots of flat riding along the lake and then an easy final climb over the divide. This is pulp country with lots of relatively small fir trees on rolling hills.
In SainteAngeledeMerici I spotted two bikes with trailers, and I wheeled around to find my friends on the side porch of a house sipping lemonade and talking with the owners. I stayed and talked for about a half hour. They have come about 100 k from TroisPistoles, while I have come about 1,000 k, but they do a different type of touring. They love to stop and talk with people, and I respect that type of touring.
At this point I turned off the standard Gaspe loop to head west across farming country in the most direct route to the car. Nobody has been able to tell me what the roads are like. I know from the guide books that there are no campgrounds, motels, restaurants, or B&B'sother than the one where I have a reservation. I expect hilly country, because I am heading across the high part of the peninsula and crossing rivers perpendicularly.
It was indeed hilly. There was 808 m of climbing in the last 42 k today, which is an average of 102 ft/mi. This is hillier than my day out at Land's End, but of course it's only for 42 k. There were several 'walkers' in the heat of midafternoon, but I had plenty of time and I wasn't too surprised.
I expected the B&B to be an old farmhouse with an elderly couple trying to make a few extra bucks taking in stray boarders in this nontourist area. I had visions of conflict in the kitchen as we tried to communicate about how we would share it. Was I surprised when I finally found the Gite du Bon Vieux Temps. Even in the very small village I had to ask several people before someone knew where it was. It turns out I had passed the turn for it 6 k back, but the sign was facing the other way. Most of their guests come from the direction of Rimouski, not from the interior farm country where I was travelling.
The gite was a homemade log cabin 1 k off the small highway in the woods. It had cathedral ceilings with a huge great room with a glass front looking down a sloping lawn with birches and other beautiful trees to a 2 acre trout pond. The young couple who own it live in a smaller old house next door with their three young children and use this house as a B&B. As the only guest, I had the master bedroom in a balcony over the great room, as well as the run of the kitchen and whole house.
One wing of the house is a huge bathroom with a cathedral ceiling. At the far end is a huge Jacuzzi with a picture window looking out to a private garden. In the middle of the room is a wood stove. The normal parts of a bathroom are in various cubicles. This is a place to party. I was sorely tempted, but they charge an extra C$ 25 to heat up the Jacuzzi. I settled for a great hot shower in the large shower cubicle.
The next morning Rene came over to fix my breakfast at 7. As a forester, he offered to fix breakfast any time after 5. He made buckwheat pancakes (actually thin crepes) and put ham and cheese inside to melt. These were served with real maple syrup and various kinds of homemade preserves. After four of these I asked for a plain one, and ended up with several more plain pancakes. As a young man Rene had also toured the Gaspe by bike, and he was very willing to give me all the food I wanted.
It turns out that he speaks very good English, having lived and worked in British Columbia for four years, and we had great conversations. Scanning their guest book showed no other visitors from the US, and not that many from anywhere. I hope they are able to build up this business, because at C$ 25 it is an incredible value. They are near two wilderness park areas, and he raises and races sled dogs, snow shoes, ski tours, and snowmobiles.
Saturday, June 28 NotreDameduLac (66 mi, 3091 ft, 12 mph)
Off at 8:30 in shorts with perfect weather. There were some tough hills today, but it was more high rolling farm and wooded country. It was pretty following the Rimouski River for a while before a wicked climb into the next valley. Then an easy run along LacdesAigles before one last 160 m monster out of Squatec. After a gorgeous view of Lake Temiscouata from the top, I blasted down to the lake and rolled gently along it to Cabano. Then a final 15 k run down the level rail trail to the car at 3.
It sounds easy, but it was a pretty warm day, and I was very ready to finish up and head home. Traffic through this area was negligible, and it was very pretty. There was a lot of Saturday bike traffic on the rail trail going down the lake, but it didn't bother me. This was a beautiful way to end up the trip.
I picked up the car, stopped at the municipal beach for a cool swim and clean clothes, and was on the road by 4. I came down Route 1 for variety, and it was more of what I expectedvast rolling farm country. It was three miles longer this way than the route up. I stopped in Houlton for a big dinner at Shop and Save and treated myself to a plate of chocolate chocolate chip cookies for my birthday. Great birthday!
Daily Tour Log