I can't recall how long I bombed up Rt. 138. The scenery seemed to stop my sense of time. You are treated to a series of mountain climbs and wonderful descents down to amazing St. Lawrence bay views. A few small towns along the way, it was easy to become captivated by the wild scenery. If riding with a boner is wrong, then I was a hardened criminal that day. I remember one moment coming into some mountain village and seeing a lot of activity outside what I thought was a convenience store. I wheeled in hoping to find a cup of earl grey. People watched me getting off my bike as if I was some kind of freak show. Stepping inside I realized it was a cheese factory with a small shoppe. Two French Canadian ladies stood behind a deli case cutting hunks of cheese for people waiting in a sizeable line. I did a double take. Was I really in a cheese factory? I noticed that the only tea available was from a machine that dispensed hot drinks. Putting a few coins in I had to settle for coffee as I couldn't read French to find tea. But, man did that dark concoction seep its warmth into me. I played with the idea of buying some cheese, but I still had a pretty good chunk of cheddar in my pannier. The spices available in the shop were out of this world. Spices you couldn't even get in Wegmans, a mammoth supermarket chain in the Northeastern USA. Spices I hadn't even heard of. And I fancy myself a cook.
But I walked out content with what ended up being a truly tasty cup of coffee. From a machine no less. I felt renewed and looking forward to making a ferry that crossed a fjord in Tadoussac. I had trouble imagining that the ferry was free, although that's what someone told me. A free ride on a ferry seems alien. The fluid did wonders to warm me. The weather improved over the time I was inside. I journeyed on. Each small baytown I rode through was worthy of an overnight stop. I don't remember the names. And along the way there were so many killer explorable dirt roads branching off. I took off down a few wishing it was later in the day so I could begin setting up camp. If I was any kind of adventure rider, I would have checked out all of them. Thousands of miles of trails to navigate. One in particular zig zagged five miles up a mountain to an overlook. Others made their way to hidden bays waiting to deliver incredible camping experiences to enthusiastic riders. I rapidly became convinced that the North Shore is an unexplored gold mine for dual-sporters. I could've spent an intriguing month riding along 500 miles of wild coastline. As I rode along I spent time wondering why doing the Gaspe circumnavigation was my quest. Why not spend ten days making the trip from Quebec City all the way to Kegaska, the Eastern terminus of Rt. 138? The place is so wild and desolate and just positively jamming with riding opportunities. I mulled over the idea as I road along.
Finally I approached the ferry going across the Saguenay River. Wheeling around a bend and descending to the river, I saw the ferry coming in. At a vantage point I was struck with the beauty of the Fjord. Man, what I wouldn't have given to have my sea kayak with me. A chance to get off the bike and paddle upriver spending a few nights river-camping. Maybe even see a whale. I rode down and joined a very small line of traffic for the crossing. Much to my surprise I pulled up behind a Harley with a pair of rough looking customers standing near it. Both spoke English and were nice enough to fill me in on a few things. First, I would need a reservation on the ferries crossing the St. Lawrence to Gaspe. Second, they recommended I cross in Forestville p which was only a few hours up ahead. Snow/sleet was forecast in the next days and large swells were expected to hit the coast. I might get stranded a few days, if I went too far east. The closer you get to the mouth of the river, the greater the chance of ferry cancelations. Great info, I thought. Turns out the two were traveling home about seven more hours northeast. Talk about endurance. They were heading deep into cold, nasty weather and were geared as if they were heading to a clam jam on a cool summer evening. I asked them about it and they said, "we're used to the cold up here." I bid them farewell with a handshake hoping some of their hardiness would rub off on me. On the ferry I also got to take a close up look at lorries which had massive tires on them. I'd seen several of these trucks during the day and figured they were heading to mining operations in Labrador. Next time I struggle muscling a DRZ tire off the rim with my Motion Pro irons, I'll be imagining the mechanic who has to mount these suckers up. Probably has forearms the size of Popeye.
Riding off the ferry, you enter Tadoussac. It is a touristy place with plenty of charm. I took a ride around the town and considered spending the evening. I did find a chamber of commerce office and a woman was very nice in calling to Forestville and booking me a spot on the ferry for the next day. This was good because it would give me plenty of time to find a campsite for the evening and then hit a local restaurant, which there seemed to be a lot of. I decided to continue up Rt. 138 a bit to locate a place to camp. I ended up finding a campground which had spectacular sites and views. Plus there was absolutely no one except me. Though it was typically 30 bucks a nite for a tent site, I was able to score a half price deal by simply asking. After paying the fee I rumbled down a long zig-zagging access road. I was so far off the highway, it was a faint recollection. The campsite I chose was out of this world. In a small grouping of trees that resembled Aspen, there was a flat spot for my tent, a picnic table and then a 20 foot cliff down to the rocky shoreline/ crashing surf. Because there were swells building, I would be lulled to sleep all night long. I quickly set up my tent, made some tea and took an hour's hike around the area. Trust me, my pictures don't to any justice to the beauty of this area. Given how picturesque it was, I could only imagine how busy the place would get in the height of summer. Having it all to myself was a special privilege, no doubt.
As dusk was falling I rode my bike the 15 miles back into Tadoussac. I parked and took a short walk trying to find a nice restaurant. I chose a cafe that seemed to have pretty good traffic going in. The only place to sit was up against a window well. Otherwise it was a long wait. No problem as I didn't exactly have anyone else in my company. I ordered off a French menu and got a surprise when they delivered a chicken sandwich. i thought I was getting a huge salad. No problem though as it ended up being top notch. I savored each bite as if my life depended on it. I snagged a great Belgian ale which went down smoother than silk. I could feel the immediate effects of the ten percent alcohol as it slowly infiltrated and mellowed me.
I contemplated having another, but thought better of it remembering that I wanted to have my night cap in the infamous Hotel Tadoussac. Two drinks is plenty considering I still had to drive back to the campground in the dark with moose lurking about. So I rode the bike down to the hotel and boldly parked adjacent to the front door on their patio. I went into the bar and ordered a glass of port. I was able to drink it in the amazing living room near the foyer while making a call. Fires were roaring and there was even a piano with a couple of saucy babes plinking away. After I finished my drink, I replenished it with brandy from my flask saving a bit of cash. Plus it was way better than the port, which was swill. After another hour is was time to ride back to camp and climb into my bag. The ride was surreal, what with the slight buzz and chance of moose collision. Of course, I'm always more vigilant when riding with a few drinks in me. Hitting camp, I felt isolated and alone. It was seriously dark out, no one else around. I took off my duds and climbed into the bag in the briefs I had been wearing for a few days now. No sooner was I comfortable and falling off when I felt the pangs of an annoying piss coming on. Dang, I knew I had forgotten something. Stepping outside into the night, I walked to the edge of the abyss and cast my fluid off into the raging Saint Lawrence below. I wondered what would happen if I lost footing and fell into the river and disappeared forever. Who, but for a select few people would really give a shit? And how long would their mourning last, a few months? Climbing back into the tent and my bag I felt wonderfully small. Quickly, I drifted off to the sounds of breaking waves and wind. A liter bottle of Fiji water at my side and a can of bear spray. God, I slept good that night.