Week 5 in Canada (the third week of October 2018) and days 16 - 20 on the bicycles brought us the first snow. Surprisingly that was not a problem - the extreme head winds, rain and the coldness as a result of these factors however were, even though we had already been practicing riding in unfavourable weather in the week before. However there were also positive surprises on these 320 kilometers: Thanks to Le Petit-Témis, la Route Verte & la Route des Navigateurs we travelled over luxurious, well signed cycling paths which sheltered us from he winds thanks to thick vegetation, beautiful nature, a last lighting up of the colored leaves, breathtaking views across wild water and fields and sunsets between stormy clouds. Welcome to the Canadian Autumn!
Before I'll start with the report I want to take the opportunity to say a few explaining and apologizing words regarding the long break in updates on here. First of all I want to say a big, big thank you for all the lovely message that reached us in the meantime, sorry for the long silence and wonderful that you found your way back here! I am writing this entry about our 5th week of traveling (October 17th - 21st) in our Weblogbook 6 months after everything happened. Why? Well, one could find many explanations for that - or name one of the decisive reasons that no one who has not lived through it themselves will ever be able to imagine. CANADIEN WINTER. To get an idea, it is enough to type in a search engine of your choice "Canadian seasons" and click on "images". Various graphics and "meemes" will describe to you vividly what we have experienced in the last months - good example is Cassandra Calins Comic.Of course it always depends where exactly you are in Canada, but for Québec (still 1,542,056 square kilometers and three climate zones big - says Wikipedia) we can confirm: there a roughly eleven seasons, six of them have to be counted as Winter, then there is said to be a short, intense Spring and Summer and the last three seasons are variations of Autumn. Even though I just mentioned the Canadian Winter as the reason for the long time without update in our diary, we will wait with
the review of the winter time to a later blog post - because
even though we had snow in October, it probably was just real,
Source of image: https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/comments/9agmto/canadas_11_seasons_they_forgot_our_new_one/
Wednesday, October 17th 2018
■ 04:10 hours riding time ■ 58 km ■ Ø 13,9 kmh ■ max 36 kmh
In the prior blog post I already wrote about our wonderful break before our upcoming journey to Québec City - as well as our planning of the route and the worries because of the weather conditions. After some doubts and contradictory recommendations from locals we finally started on October 17th, 2018 determined and courageous on our next adventure. Planning the route can give you a very realistic idea of what you will be in for - but you can never really rely on it 100%. Of cause you can have a look at the elevation and compare this with terrain you know - how it will be feeling at the end however, you will only know after you have done it. So we knew that, before we would get on the Petit-Témis we would need climb quite an elevation then ride down a hill too far down to then climb an even higher hill, if it would actually feel as bad as it looked like on the map - we did not know. However, with knowing that the Petit-Témis to Rivière-du-Loup (goal for the second day) would also constantly go up, a big portion of reluctance but also a grim determination was mixed into our feelings. After we had said goodbye to Carole and her dog Yuki we climbed our first, short but very steep hill of the day only to see minutes later the dreaded street leading downhill.
These two pictures are the only photos we took on the first part of this day because with a sky full of rain-heavy clouds above us and a strong headwind, the last thing on our minds was documenting our suffering. This view overlooking the next stretch of our way going downhill but even more the climb uphill on the other side however had to be documented. More professional cyclist are probably laughing heartily about my report... but six months later I still remember very clearly how it felt to ride into this woods of suffering with run-up and open eyes, not knowing if we will ever find a way out again. Why had we not taken the bus, like Carole had recommended? Then again, what a senseless Question. When we would have wanted this trip to be comfortable, we would have bought a van, not bicycles. In fact I even was able to enjoy the ride downhill despite the threatening climb that would come after it. As we then, shortly after, approximately after having half the climb already done and we were riding at walking pace next to each other, I realized that I could have saved myself a lot of horror by just thinking only half as much and half as quick beforehand. The thing with hills is - you just climb them, that is exhausting but also makes life relatively simple. The only goal of life in these minutes becomes not to stop kicking with your legs. And that again is a beautiful example of our motto: simple, not easy - and at the same time is the answer to my earlier question why we had not taken the bus or bought a van.
After this second hill of the day we finally felt warm and awake and I can not even remember exactly how, but we reached the Petit-Témis, in Québec also part of the Route Verte, relatively quickly and uncomplicated. The Petit-Témis is a lovingly landscaped and well-traced bike path, approximately two meters wide and made of a solid sand-gravel-mix. Although it constantly goes up it is such a subtle climb that it was not more tiring in any way, we just moved forward a little slower. However, as feared, the wind got stronger and at the beginning of the path we had to fight off wind gusts because the path went close to the highway and there weren't any bushes to shelter us. Soon enough though, the cycling path made a turn away from the street and the noise of the cars as well as the wind gusts went away. Sheltered by bushes and trees we quickly reached the boarder between New Brunswick and Québec. We were well in time, it still had not started raining yet and the path now had stopped ascending. Time to start the photo documentary again.
Of course even the most beautiful cycle paths have some small shortcomings - which however are easy to shift out of the way. Very unusual and luxurious but because of the now starting rain very pressing necessity, where the often covered picnic areas for cyclist along the way. We could only imagine how much is happening here on a nice Summer day. On this day we saw eight People altogether, fife of which were construction worker who now, after the season, were repairing the track. The other three people were walking their dogs.
After half of the way the track became even more magical. We reached „Lac Témiscouata“ - and on its shore most of the remaining stretch went alongside. After half an hour the rain stopped again so that we were able to enjoy incredible views across the lake and the autumnal forest.
The second half of todays stretch went by much quicker that the first half - contrary to the usual phenomena. We were in a flow, covering a lot of kilometers without even noticing, enjoyed the silence and the view. The sun was shining and a bright blue sky welcomed us when we reached Cabano at 2.30pm - the town in which our motel for this night was located. We had time enough to treat ourselves to a last break and something to eat as well as to buy food for the evening and as supplies for the next days. On the last kilometers through the town it started to rain again - however, when we arrived at the motel on time for sunset around 5pm the sky cleared up again. We enjoyed the sunset, the small kitchen unit in our room and a hot shower and soon fell satisfied in our comfortable bed.
Before this happy end of our eventful day however we had learned one more lesson: when your bicycle dealer tells you that you should not put your bike on its stand when the panniers are full - you should not do it. Of course whenever possible we acted accordingly to this advice and leaned our bikes during breaks against walls. On tours like ours however situations arise, preferably in areas without walls of buildings around, where you just quickly need to get off your bike in order to crouch behind a bush - without the bicycle. While men can just stand and still hold their bike I had used my bike stand in these situations in the past weeks because usually Pascal was busy holding his own bike. If you think I could have just leaned my bicycle against a tree - you will find out that this is not an option: because of the weight of the panniers on both front and back wheel you need at least two suitable objects for the bike to lean on. Add being in a hurry to the mix (of cause you always wait with these kinds of necessary but annoying breaks until the last bearable second) and it's almost impossible to find a fitting spot. Nonetheless, from now on this tour would have to go on without my bike stand. Good that I am now while writing this reminded that we wanted to find a new solution for the bike stand while our long stay in Montréal…
Thursday, October 18th 2018 ■ ? riding time ■ 64,9 km ■ Ø ? kmh ■ max ? kmh
On the next morning we were greeted by the first snow of this Winter on the ground of the motel parking lot. Now I was relieved that the campgrounds were already closed - otherwise we may have tried to stay in out tent over night, who knows…
The wind had gotten stronger, the waves on the lake made it look like the Atlantik Ocean and the sky changed from a glaring blue with raging clouds to being completely grey and promising snow within minutes.
Back on the Petit-Temis we marveled again about how much vegetation can protect against wind and enjoyed calm and almost dreamlike moments with slowly falling snow. On this part of the cycling path (around Saint-Louis- de-Ha! Ha!) a very precious atmosphere surrounded us - everything seemed to be wrapped in cotton wool and time seemed to stand still between Autumn and Winter.
Only the biting coldness took a loss out of us. We were much quicker than usually tired and not even a break with food and hot tea was possible to help us recover. Luckily I had been carrying a thermos bottle with me since weeks and we often had used it to safe hot water from the evening for a quick start in the morning... but at the same time Pascal had made fun of me. Today I had brought it on our trip filled with hot water and it saved us both.
Despite the hot tea however - standing still on this day meant to freeze even more - so after a very short break we had to keep on keeping on. Knowing this I think you can imagine that even though we were traveling through beautiful, wild and remote nature (I think we met three people in total) the day turned out to be quite hard.
At the end the track felt longer and longer and time moved worryingly quickly and close to the time of sunset - and we were exhausted, tired and hungry. Our goal on this day was an AirBnB in Saint Antonin because the motels in Rivière-du-Loup would have been 10 km's further away and also the AirBnB was exceptionally reasonable. Shortly before the end it got especially thrilling because the AirBnB was located on a street that was not shown in the map on the app on our phone and also the neighbors had no idea what street we were looking for. As our host was at sport he did not pick up the phone. Finally we did find the street leading through an area of new housing - and were able to settle for the night and cook ourselves a warming meal in the excellent kitchen.
I was so tired that I accidentally deleted all the data on my tacho without noting them down first - nevertheless we were able to sleep very well.
Friday, October 19th, 2018 ■ 05:03 riding time ■ 79,1 km ■ Ø 15,6 kmh ■ max 35 kmh
One of our longer stretches was waiting for us on this day with temperatures shortly above freezing and as soon as we came near to the Sankt-Lorenz-River also a lot of wind. We took a shortcut, instead of riding through Rivièr-du-Loup we turned and rode diagonal direction south-west. At Notre-Dame-du-Portage we got back on the Route Verte which in this area most of the time leads along the same way the Route des Navigateurs runs, a route for tourists along the shore. The cycling path Petit-Temis ends in Rivière-du-Loup - so from now on we were back on country roads. Thanks to the Route Verte these streets continuously have a wide shoulder which is especially for cyclists, from time to time there also are small cycling paths next to the street. On the first stretch along the river we did not follow the route, which followed the broader street a few hundred meters further inland, but turned and followed the Route des Navigateurs, which led over the smallest streets through old fishing villages. Right next to the water we rode along small houses that did not look Northamerican at all but make you feel as if you were in the south of France. In the Summer it must be full of tourists along the Saint-Lotenz-River. We saw campgrounds, art dealers and cafes (of course all closed by now) and dreamt of a house at the beach with veranda and hollyhocks.
A little later the small streets through the villages disappeared and the only street left was the country road that is also used for the Route Verte. The street led us away from the shore a little further into the country - so far that we weren't able to see the water anymore and that the way now went hill up and hill down, but still not far enough to be sheltered from the wind. There were no bushes or trees, only fields, fields, fields. The stretch now went along this lonely road through villages shaped by agriculture and it felt as if it would never end. We realized on this day that out encounters with head winds until now had actually been light head breezes. We had the feeling that we did not make any headway - the desire to take pictures went down to zero again.
We had to make progress because it was getting later and later. For the last kilometers around 5pm the country road became a highway and with twilight setting in, the Route Verte led us away from the street on a really pretty track through fields of reed along the river. Unfortunately however reed does not protect you from wind and the last 30 minutes became even more windy. But then we finally had made it. Our motel was located on the other side of the highway, before we turned to go there we even enjoyed a few minutes on the water, with fluttering reed and traveling geese.
Saturday ■ 05:24 riding time ■ 58,6 km ■ Ø 10,8 kmh ■ max 29 kmh
The expectations for the following day had been that it would be much easier day because much less kilometers had to be travelled. The weather report too promised 11 degrees plus with clouds but no rain. However, it was Canadian Autumn - and again we were in for a surprise, new challenges and tests. The route led uns back to the beautiful cycling path through the reed. The we were greeted ones again by the wind - which would stay our constant companion for this day and would teach us that you should never only look at the temperature and the probability of rain, but also at wind speed and direction.
At 1pm, after roughly two hours we had only made 20 kilometers (one third of the way we had planned for the day) but decided to take a break anyway. We were very hungry and frozen stiff. Unfortunately on this day of all times there was not every five kilometers a covered picnic area for cyclists. We ended up crouching behind a waste container on a parking lot of one of the camp grounds because for miles around was no better shelter from the wind to be found. While Pascal cooked our last emergency meals out of a packet with the camping stove, I tried to find out more about the weather on the internet. We had headwind from southwests that blew with 45 km per hour - often even stronger in gusts of 65kmh. I also found out the eleven degrees actually felt like seven - no wonder that we were so slow and felt so miserable. The forecast for the next few hours promised that the wind would slowly get weaker - but in exchange percentage for the chance of rain got higher.
After we had finished eating it started to rain - even though the weather forecast had only promised rain around 5pm. The only idea we had was to take the bull by its horns - after all we had booked a motel for the night and on the next day an AirBnB in Quebec was waiting. Who knew how the weather would be on the next day. So it continued. On a route that I am sure would have been wonderful at ten degrees warmer, 30 kmh less headwinds and without rain. We also would have loved to hide in one of the cozy looking cafes along the way - unfortunately they were all closed. Two more long hours passed slowly in which we just pedaled one behind the other without talking. The Route Verte went now along the coastal street and even though almost no cars were passing us, the wind gusts made us swerve so often to the middle of the road that it was getting dangerous. Branches were falling on the street and the rain got heavier when we finally decided that we had to find shelter around 3pm - and found it - simply underneath a canopy of a small, private house. It was not possible to ride any meter further on a bicycle. The sky was of a dark grey to black, rain was pouring down and the west-wind blew branches and leaves across the street.
Suddenly something moved behind the curtains. We did not feel good. We had hoped that no one was at home so that we could simply wait here until wind and rain would have at least gotten a little less. Shortly after that, a car drove on the parking space in front of the house. A woman, a man and a girl climbed out. It turned out that the family was visiting the grandfather who was living alone in the house we were standing in front of. Five minutes later all of us were standing in the house of the old man. The six of us watched the thick, black cloud cover that belt along the sky through the window, which gave view across the sheet of water of the Saint-Lorenz-River. Of course a dialog unfolded about why we were riding our bikes in this weather and where we were heading. After we had told our story and been offered coffee and refilled our water bottles instead we also got to know our hosts a little bit. The elderly man is sculptor and we were standing in his workshop. With the fantastic view over the water he was still workin on detailed, wooden figures of humans. Because he himself only spoke French his daughter and son in law acted as interpreters and told us that many years ago he had even travelled to Germany for an exhibition. After half an hour the sky cleared slightly at the horizon and the rain got a little softer. Even though the wind still blew quite heavily we decided we had to travel on in order to be able to end this exhausting day in the bed at our hotel as planned at some point.
When we were outside preparing our bikes in order to get back on track the woman came back outside and offered that we could stay the night with them. The lasagne they were preparing for dinner would easily last for two more people and even though there weren’t enough beds for everyone, with our sleeping mats there could be found a good sleeping arrangement for us. In fact there was nothing that we had more wished for in this moment than this and we were completely overwhelmed by this attentive and warm offer. Nevertheless after a short debate we decided to ride on - the sky slowly cleared and we not only had a booked hotel room waiting for us, but also the planned ride to Québec on the next day, that would get painfully long if we stayed the night here. So we said a very warm thank you and passed along our blog address as a way to keep in touch.
The last third of the way for the day passed rather unspectacular. The wind still blew quite strong but the gusts simmered down, the clouds cleared, the sun set and the moon rose. While traveling the last kilometers in the dark once again we were pleased that we had invested in good lights. Our hotel was located a little out of town between other hotels, motels and restaurants and in order to celebrate that we had gotten through this day we treated ourselves to pizza instead of cooking something and then collapsed in bed.
Sunday, October 21st 2018 ■ 04:43 riding time ■ 62km ■ Ø 13,1 kmh ■ max 31 kmh
Today was the big day! Today, after five weeks, we would reach the destination we had planned at the beginning of our journey as our goal before Winter. We had already heard that Québec is rather small and that it would not be easy to find a job without speaking French already on a good level. Technically our new goal then already was to reach Montréal before Winter but still Québec felt like a big thing. We had booked our AirBnB for five nights and were looking forward to discover one of the oldest and most beautiful Citys of Canada.
On this day the wind had mercy on us - with headwinds of 20 kmh and wind gusts of 30 kmh we were able to keep good pace. By the time we got hungry, shortly before we reached half of the day’s kilometers, something strange happened. Before that, the temperature had been pleasant - now, after we had climbed a small hill, temperature had dropped drastically. As we were very hungry and a perfekt picnic area came up on our way that was sheltered from the wind, we decided to pause anyway. When our fingers nearly fell off because of being so cold, only because we held our sandwiches without gloves, we decided to look up the actual temperature of the place we exactly were located. We found out that we were not crazy but that the temperature had actually dropped by ten degrees celsius. What had caused that sudden change remains unknown until today.
The next fifteen kilometers after the break were very hard. The route led us mainly through the interior and after every hill we hoped to finally see the water again. I felt like when I was a child and we were on our way in the car for a summer vacation. The last few hours we children had always spent asking when we would finally arrive and we had tried to smell the ocean or catch a view of it. This time however the waiting was much colder and uncomfortable in general.
Finally the moment was there. The road let down a long descent and we could already see the Saint-Lorenz-River. As usual when you are waiting for something with eager expectation we weren't there yet. The harbor was another seven kilometers away. However those seven kilometers were very special and made a lot of fun. We turned away from the street onto a cycling path which is constructed on an old rail way. The path was freshly asphalted and wound itself through residential area, parks and over old railway bridges. Every now and then we were able to see the river and after some time the skyline from Quebec finally came into view in the far distance.
When we arrived at the harbor around 4 pm we were greeted by the sun which finally broke through the clouds and watched the ferry which we would take an hour later leave the harbor. The hour of waiting time was perfect because we wanted to cherish the last rays of sunshine with the view of Quebec in the cafe we had spotted just across the harbor. Even though the restaurant was quite busy we managed to get hold of the small, perfect table at the window in the sun and very much enjoyed having a strengthening mouth full to eat and drink in the warmth while looking at what had been our goal to reach for the last five weeks.
An hour later we were on the ferry... is it only me or are ferry crossings just something special? The wind, the water, the smell, the sounds, the view of the cliffs and the Chateaux... i I get goosebumps just writing about it. The crossing took half an hour and after we had landed we immediately rolled on to the excellently maintained, very broad cycling path. As part of the Route Verte it wound its way along the waterfront of the City and until the very last kilometers to our accommodation we were able to travel very comfortable through Quebec City. The very last stretch then got once again slightly thrilling - we had to climb quite some ascent further into the City and in this case the navigation did not work perfectly. As a consequence we had to ride quite a few one-way roads up and down the hill until we had found our apartment. After 20 minutes more than what we had hoped for we reached our AirBnB and finally were able to plunge into our well-deserved break.