Monday, August 01, 2005

One Step Backward

11:00 p.m.

Le Bleu Blanc Rouge Motel, Percé, Quebec

Exceedingly discouraged tonight by an accumulation of disappointments: the inability to upload text and images to the blog for the past week, the camera sensor problem, a list of motorcycle problems (and this, a new machine that’s touted as being most worthy for World adventuring!), the broken eyeglasses and, not least, the burden of having a child along (my brother!)

After spending hours at the tourist office, trying unsuccessfully to work on the blog, I dejectedly walked back to the motel. Stood out in the dark for a long time, at the top of a stairway leading down to the beach. Just pondering this whole mess; how things have slowly spun out of control. This need to communicate via “technology” is undermining the intent of the journey; it is co-opting my time and money.

And I should have listened to “Horizons Unlimited” founder Grant Johnson’s advice: “forget New England and the East Coast. You can still visit there when you’re 70. Head south!” I even considered telling Jeff we’re not going to Newfoundland. Instead I would turn south immediately and make a beeline to the Mexican border, leaving him in Vermont.

This morning, I got up at 7:30. Jeff snored loudly throughout the night. Otherwise, it was a very quiet campground. I took some time to make notes, record receipts and start packing while Jeff rested. It is a very different trip with him along. Watched as neighbors quietly packed up and left. The sky was clouding. The possibility of rain in today's forecast.

I was nearly packed when Jeff woke. He started the day with complaints about sweating already. I’m thinking “he’s so like mother! Nothing is ever right. There’s a flaw to be found in everything.” I was growing quite weary of this, and of the incessant chatter about ANYTHING. He can’t bear to be silent one minute. (I think this is a direct result of his lack of socialization. Now that he has me here, he can talk all he wants. But I can’t tolerate it.)

Headed for Gaspé. Skies were overcast and gray as we approached the Parc National de Fourillon, not really ideal for photographs or for hiking about to look at the scenery. I was okay with just driving on.

In Gaspé, I found the “Le Brulerie” in a touristy section by the water. We parked at the “Tim Horton’s” across the street, hoping we would not be spotted sneaking away to a competitor. “This is your kind of place,” Jeff said, with a trace of sarcasm. He was right though. A coffee shop roasting its own beans, a young “organic-looking staff,” an unconventional menu and, most importantly, wi-fi! After a bowl of delicious vegetable puree soup and a bagel sandwich, I logged onto the computer, but it didn’t feel quite right, sitting at a dining table in a busy restaurant. And Jeff, seated across from me was dozing, clearly bored. “I’ve had enough!”

Feeling compelled to justify our use of their lot, we bought a brownie and yogurt at “Tim Horton’s.” Leaving town, I followed Jeff right through another red light. I was becoming incensed. I just wanted to get away, leave him behind. Refueling, I didn’t say a word. Inside, I was struggling. “I’ve got to deal with this negativity, but I don’t know how. I can’t run from the situation.”

Rain ahead, I stopped a few miles south of Gaspé to prepare, and to figure out what to do next. When I asked what he wanted to do, return to Gaspé or ride on, the now familiar reply came:

“What would you do if I weren’t here?"

Exasperated, I said “you keep asking what I would do. This is not MY trip at this point, it’s OUR trip. I would do things differently on my own, but I’m NOT on my own!”

He opened his tank bag and found the yogurt container had broken open, spilling its contents. He was furious and flung the container on the ground. “I don’t want to hold you up,” he said.

“You’re littering…”

Between the mess in his tank bag and the imminent rain, there wasn’t time to bicker. We turned to cleaning up the yogurt and getting suited up for rain. I gave him my rain pants to pull over his jeans (his rain pants don’t fit.) Gradually, my focus was diverted from my own internal crisis. Returning to the highway, we were now riding in steady rain.

After a short time, we came upon a Swiss-style hotel. Maybe it would be best to just quit for the day, wait out this rain. Checked the rates and looked at a room, but no internet service out here. A group of bikers rolled in, soaked. They were finished – looking for shelter.

I told Jeff “I would camp, that’s what I would do,” but a motel would be okay. We continued on.

Nestled along a fantastic, rugged shoreline, we came to Percé. An aging motel high on a hill overlooks the town. We inquired, but the rate seemed exorbitant. We coasted downhill, into town and immediately a small modest motel caught our attention.

"Le Bleu Blanc Rouge Motel" had a “chalet" available for $119, basically a small white bungalow, one of about eight sandwiched between the highway and the beach. But it looked great under the circumstances. Forget the internet; I just wanted to dry out.

Anyway, I was told the town had an internet café, so that was encouraging. The "chalet" had two bedrooms, so we had plenty of room to spread out our wet gear. Later, we followed directions to the internet cafe, walking up the street. Quite surprised to see this was not the sleepy little hamlet I expected, but a bustling tourist destination, even in this inclement weather. Whale watching is a big draw here, as is fishing, diving and exploring the off-shore islands.

The so-called "internet cafe" turned out to be a waterfront restaurant with a terminal that appeared to have a waiting line. I asked the server if they had wi-fi, but she said that out here on the coast, there is only "dial-up."

Sitting at the window table, looking out on the stormy cove, the landscape was clearly dramatic. I could only try to imagine how much more so it would be under sunny skies.

A bowl of seafood chowder and a bottle of "Boreale Blonde" beer for me. Jeff tried their bleu cheese poutine. As we ate, I couldn’t look Jeff in eye; I was still fuming and frustrated, hating that I felt trapped by this situation. Suddenly that couple in Grand Prairie, Alberta came to mind. I understood.

He went back to the bungalow and I walked up the street to the Visitor Information Office. They clarified the internet services available: there is no internet cafe in town, but there IS a wi-fi at the "Office Tourisme de Perce," sponsored by their equivalent to a Chamber of Commerce. It was right next to where we had dined.

In a makeshift space, behind the whale watch ticket offices, I was shown a counter where I could set up. The wireless transmitter was right there, a few feet from my computer. Despite indications that I was connecting to the network, and that signal strength was excellent, I still couldn't upload photographs. Communications were very slow and the wireless disconnected every few minutes. I couldn't understand why. It was very frustrating. Should I just give up on the blog, give up on taking photos???

A young fellow at a neighboring terminal was talking to himself, drumming on the counter, laughing, conversing with the computer, burning up the keyboard. I just wanted to slap him. After about three hours, I quit.

Returned to the motel, where I found three bikers looking over the BMWs. Inside, Jeff was sleeping, so I went out again to explore the town a bit more, visiting the general store and boulangerie. The sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians; couples, families, young and old, locals and tourists. A bit like Santa Cruz or Monterey. This is Quebec's coastline. A province that is more like an isolated nation, I can understand that these people may not want to venture any further on their vacation. Beyond the borders, they speak a foreign language, English.

Later, watching TV, sharing some cheese and crackers, I told Jeff I was very discouraged.

“What will it take for you to not be discouraged?”

“I don't know. It could all be different tomorrow.”

To bed after midnight. Outside my window, the dish-washing clatter from the restaurant kitchen next door.

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