Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Wilds of Quebec


Congratulations to Jeff on his first successful encampment!


9:30 p.m.

Jeff and I camped at Domaine la Truite du Parc, a private campground near Stoneham, Quebec and the Jacques Cartier Forest. It’s pretty cold already. It may drop into the 40’s tonight. The nearby Provincial campground was either full or doesn’t exist – the attendant sent us up the road to this one.

Getting further from Quebec City, I was reaching a decision point – write off seeing the city and move on, or turn around and try to find something (a motel?) closer to town. At 30 or 40 miles out, this campground is still close enough to consider returning to the city tomorrow.

We checked out the campsites before agreeing to take one. A horrendous racket from a nearby kennel – this is nuts! But our options at this point were few. Returning to the office, we learned the owners raise sled dogs and have 160 of them. They howl when it is feeding time, but settle down afterward. In winter, there are a number of dog-sledding packages offered, including one called “Dance with the Stars,” an overnight sled ride, that includes camping in a tipi. The owners (Veronique and Marcelle, I believe) are from Northwestern France and bought this camp a year ago. (see http://www.traineaux-chiens.com/index.html)



After the strenuous tent set-up, a refreshing beverage.


As we settled in, it felt more and more comfortable (a Quebecoise beer helped.) We even decided to have their “plat du jour” for dinner: grilled pork and vegetables. Jeff ordered poutine so I could try the local dish (French fries covered with cheese curd and gravy. It should be called “plat du heart attack.”) Testing his cell phone reception (and, thus, his connection to civilization), Jeff called the Whidbey Island Kampions.



Husky


***

This morning, awoke to a perfect day: a cloudless blue sky, temperature in the 70’s. A stop at the bank for Canadian currency, then “Tim Horton’s” for some breakfast. The fast food restaurant was crowded. Smartly-dressed locals, bikers in leathers, tourists. These restaurants, started by a famous Canadian hockey player (now deceased) are hugely popular. Jeff had the traditional beans (as in pork and beans) for breakfast. I stuck to a bagel. I take back what I said about their coffee. It’s not that bad. But it’s not that good either.

Coming up here, I was totally unprepared for a French-speaking Quebec. So close to the U.S. and it’s a real struggle to communicate. Fortunately, Jeff speaks passable French.

Drove northwest to the St. Lawrence River, traveling 50-60 mph along country roads (speed limits are mostly 90 kph on these roads, except in towns.) Each town (and there was a town every few miles) seemed to have its silver steepled cathedral. Turned east toward Quebec City on route 132 following the river’s south bank. Many motorcycles out today. Took a break at a roadside stand, sampling their pomme frites (French fries).

Into Quebec City, riding along the waterfront. It was overflowing with tourists. A beautiful "vielle cite", atop bluffs; narrow streets crowded with shops and pedestrians. It felt very much like “Sacre Couer” and "Montmartre" areas of Paris. I wanted to park the bikes in the heart of the old city, but I suspect it’s a prime area for theft. We kept on moving. Finally, I suggested we find a campground, set up our tents, and then we could come back into town. I was nearly nailed on the “freeway” as rush-hour traffic came to an abrupt halt and the car behind me failed to slow, swerving left at the last moment.

To make matters worse, my brake light failed once again. (I’ve determined this is a direct result of the missing mud guard. The rear tire kicks mud and water up into the lens, fouling the contacts.)

At camp, added another ¼ quart of oil, which is surprising, considering I just had the oil changed 300 miles ago!

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