Day 55 – Saint André to Saint Marc-du-Lac-Long, PQ – 95km

I woke up to a gentle breeze flowing through my tent.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I had my main rain flap rolled up to the side,
so I could see outside my tent quite well. I had pitched my tent at the edge of
a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. On the other side of the river, the
north shore, the rolling mountains/hills of the Laurentians lapsed into each
other in a haze. It was one of those moments that I wanted to cling onto. I
wanted to lie there,–in that moment—for a whole day.

But I didn’t. I actually woke up at 7am, turned the
laptop on, and started trying to catch up on blogs from several previous days.
I made some progress, but nothing got posted. Time crept up on me. It was 9am
before I knew it. Jeff, a family friend cycling with me, was all dressed to hit
the road. He was eager to get an early start. After eating and packing up the
site we were on the road around 10:30am. It was now somewhat cloudy.

Jeff and I before embarking on our ride

No, we're not flirting. About to set off from Saint André

The first 20km would turn out to be a tease—flat, scenic,
and fast. We had a tailwind. Then we turned onto Highway 289. We climbed for
about 10km, leaving the St. Lawrence River shores for higher grounds inland.
Then there were hills. Jeff plays tennis. He doesn’t bike too much. He did
great on the 175km ride yesterday (a bit sore though), but he began to struggle
with the steep and frequent climbs. The road was extremely bumpy, there was no
shoulder, and the odd time there was a flat stretch, a cross head wind halted any
momentum. At 35-40km, after about 210 kilometres of riding in 2 days, Jeff
decided to take a rest with the intention of joining me later in the ride.

Leaving the campground

Me following Jeff through a cute and tidy riverside Quebec village

The flat St. Lawrence River scenery early in the day

A change in scenery as we travel inland (and into the hills) towards New Brunswick

Following 289 next to the Maine-Quebec border

I wasn’t having much fun with the hills. The Appalachians
come up into this area, so it was rolling hills, except the hills were steep
and long, so it wasn’t possible to carry the momentum from one downhill to the
crest of the next hill. I cycled another 20km before stopping at a side-of-the-road
food stand, a Caissez Croute. I had stated a day earlier that I wanted to stop
at a Caisse-Croute for some authentic Quebec poutine. Eventually, everyone in
our crew except my mom ended up stopping for lunch at this tiny restaurant.
Kerr, Mia, my dad, Melisa, Jeff, Sari, Timo, and our chocolate lab sat on the
roadside patio. I thought the poutine was ok. It wasn’t special. I’m sure there
is some really unique poutine out there that would astound me, but it is yet to
be discovered; perhaps on the drive back.

By the end of lunch, the day was cloudy and humid. Some
parts of the sky were quite dark. There were some freckles of blue sky that fed
my optimism. I kept pedaling. As I cycled the bumpy, windy Highway 289 (that
goes along the Maine-Quebec border), the clouds became dark. There was rain—a
downpour. I kept pedaling. I was soaked. Have you ever been in such discomfort
that your discomfort has fuelled you, arousing some intensity from deep within?
That happened to me in that last 20km of the day (and last 20km of Quebec) in
torrential rain. There were patches where it was raining so hard that it was
hurting my bare skin. Inevitably there was the thunder. It started to get
louder and then a flash of lightning off in the distance—time to get off the
bike. I leaned my bike up against the metal highway guard rail, walked a little
ways away, and crouched in some grass beside the road. I did this for about 10
minutes. It wasn’t so bad. I actually found it somewhat meditative. I know.
This surprised me too. I’ll get a video of this posted when I’m back in Toronto.

The support vehicle came by. I got inside with my bike. I
decided to wait for the storm to let up. The rain eased off, but the thunder and
occasional flashes of lightning did not. An hour passed; still thunder and
lightning. Another half-hour passed, I dozed off. I awakened. It was almost
6pm. I still had another 50km to bike. There was still a storm. Intense rain is
negotiable, lightning I don’t deal with. I called it a day just before the New
Brunswick border.  I’ll be back early
tomorrow morning to start where I stopped. We’ve already arranged a campsite
50km down the road in Edmundston, so that’s where we’ll be tonight.



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