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Saturday, July 13th, Percé
The Gaspé to Percé road is mostly over rolling hills, some of which are inland and some by the ocean. The houses here are in better shape than those on the north shore, though they look less rustic and less interesting. We stopped at one front yard which had a display of model houses lined up, and a picnic table with a sign saying "Please feel free to sit here".
We had our first flat – a pair of snake bites. I fitted the inner tube three times before I figured out there were two punctures, not one.
Percé Rock in the distance
The three percent climbs against the wind are the hardest. There is no satisfaction in them, only discouragement. I'd rather a sharp 15% climb than a never-ending slog any day.
It was a triple sunscreen days. The sky was cloudless and the breeze was cool enough to be deceiving.
At Baie au Coin we were worried – the address for our hotel had been passed. I called our hotel. "You are about ten kilometers away." I said we were coming by velo. He laughed.
Are we there yet?
Cycling tour groups avoid the section from Cap Chat to Percé and I can see why. Unless you are up for serious climbing, this is not a route for you. On the other hand, if you don't mind hard work each and every day, the rewards of the north shore are worth it.
We still had three major climbs, each of which are over 15%. That's the price you have to pay to get the view on the descent into Percé. It's a steep price but well worth it.
Descent into Percé
From above, Perce is a jewel. I don't know if we have ever had as perfect a vista unfold for us. But the sight is not given cheaply – one must earn it.
If you have ever seen tourist information for the province of Quebec you will have seen a photo of Percé rock. It is so commonly published I was prepared to be jaded. What a pleasant surprise that the actually sight was not a disappointment.
The town itself throngs with tourists. From July 15 to August 15 the Gaspé is fully booked. We rode straight through without stopping.
How would I typify the tour so far? It is a shore ride for the most part, dotted with quaint Quebecois villages. The food has been very good, i.e. well prepared if not always the most healthy. The people are more than pleasant. The road conditions are mostly excellent, with some patches that are very good (but the 132 through Park Fortillon is dreadful). Bring your climbing gears. And between July 15-August 15 it is advisable to pre-book accommodations. Did I say bring your climbing gears? The climbs are steeper (but shorter) than anything we experienced in Spain or France.
Sunday, July 14th Port Daniel
We and a young whale in the harbour breakfasted together.
Sitting in a rocking chair on the verandah of our B&B, an old rectory. The house has gorgeous charm. It was built in an era of affordable labour and detailed charm.
The road has turned flat, in a manner. We only resorted to the granny gear three times today. But the headwind was constant and the heat intense – the sky has been cloudless. Mary has acquired a slight burn.
The ride was most difficult when it turned inland, usually to go over a headland rather than around it. Then we lost the cooling effect of the ocean breeze.
This side of the peninsula is less rugged than the north shore. The hills are gently sloping, sometimes ending in low cliffs. Where the north shore has mountains, the south has hills. The villages here spread into one another, whereas on the north they are self-contained.
We are also starting to ride through villages with English names, of which Chandler was the biggest disappointment. If you are going to find supplies (i.e. food) anywhere, it would Chandler, right? Wrong. As I say, it was a disappointment.
A welcome sign
In the afternoon we passed a depanneur that sold wine. Mary decided we needed to stop. She steered us into a u-turn with no involvement on my part. In other words she was a backseat driver.
Our B&B (upper house)
Monday, July 15th, Bonaventure
Breakfast as art
It was a short day but blistering hot with a headwind. The scenery was pleasant but unexceptional. It was a good day to stop early.
Lady CoMo fully loaded
Toure de Gaspé!
We have started to see the Acadian flag occasionally – it is like the French tricoleur with a single yellow star on the top left. I don't know anything about Acadian history but am about to find out – there is a museum across the street that beckons.
The quantity of sun screen we are wearing makes us look like silver ghosts. We need to find more of it – soon.
In the distance we can see the mountains of New Brunswick at the head of the Baie de Chaleur.
Mary constantly takes photos from the stoker's seat, mostly of houses. Each time she adjusts her position I feel the change in pressure on the pedals.
Tuesday, July 16th, Carleton-sur-Mer
At some point I must mention breakfast sausages. The Gaspé has superb breakfast sausage. Period.
Another short day. our last of the trip. It was mostly a middle ring day, nothing strenuous. The hills are benign, the scenery pleasant. The sun was hot enough we were happy to stop when we did. The forecast for tomorrow brings the threat of showers or rain. Our good luck with weather is not going to hold.
The wind has finally neutralized. It was on our flank for a change.
Two young women with whom we have been playing leapfrog passed us yesterday. We stopped (it was brutally hot) while they carried on for another 50 kilometers.
There are spots of broken glass on the road shoulder, enough to stay diligent. Most of it is broken beer bottles. Pity.
This evening we had our first disappointing meal of the trip. More pity. On the other hand, Carleton also has the Naufrageur microbrewery which is a delight. Think blueberry and cassis – that’s what Mary's drinking on the right in the photo below.
Great view, poor food
We both agree the north shore is more dramatic than the south shore. The best scenery of the ride is probably behind us.
Mary, who has a very small appetite, is training at getting fueled for breakfast.
Wednesday, July 17th, Matapedia
The morning dawned crystal clear. Throughout the morning cloud cover started drifting in. The forecast was for thunderstorms.
An epic heatwave has gripped the eastern seaboard. The drifting changes in weather patterns were supposed to hit the Gaspe today.
The rain started just after we finished fixing our second flat.
In the event, we had an hour of riding in the rain. We took shelter in a halte municipale where another cycling couple had retreated. I dried my socks under the bathroom air dryer.
Matepedia, which is sort of like onomatopoeia, is a very pretty village nestled on a salmon river. If riding past, take a minute to turn off the highway for a five minute detour. The restaurant at the motel is extremely good.
We could have made more time today (again), but there is pleasure in the leisure of our days. Besides, an early finish gives time for the socks to dry.
Thursday, July 18th, Amqui
My knees hurt.
It should have been an easy day. Gentle rises, a clear sky, and a manageable distance. What could go wrong? Well, the wind for one. The Aeolian gates opened in the morning and the wind stayed in our faces all day long.
Into the wind
There is a measurement for wind, Beaufort I believe, that was developed for sailing. Today was a tossing-treetops day. And it ground me down.
Of all riding conditions, a headwind is the worst for us. A headwind requires constant pressure and gives no satisfaction in return. It wears.
At Routhierville we discovered a wonderful covered bridge. There are fewer and fewer of these in Canada. We rode across it just to say we did.
The Matapedia valley is pleasant, but not especially picturesque. The north shore was by far our favourite.
I fitted my helmet camera backwards today to get some photos of the stoker in action.
To the right
To the left
Our auberge tonight is lovely. It has received a few negative reviews on the internet, and I can see why. Some people would not be taken with its charm.
There is a danger in making recommendations – the appeal of the moment may not suit another's tastes. Therefore we make no recommendations, but simply point out what we enjoyed. Others have to take their chances.
Friday, July 19th, Rimouski
The rain started before we did. Which was good, because it meant we could put on our rain gear before setting out.
The wind was unabated today, but it shifted to the south, which kept it just behind our quarter and pushed us up hills that we struggled on yesterday.
A short stop for a bowl of homemade barley soup replenished the soul. Almost all restaurants or roadside stops have homemade soup, and the soup is good. The roadside food in Quebec is consistently good and a lot of it is homemade. You can even try poutine (French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy), Canada’s only contribution to the world of gastronomy .
By the end of our soup it was spilling outside.
It was 30 km of climbing to make it to the top of the watershed, and another15 km across the top before we started the descent. There was a lot of loud and fast traffic, but the shoulder was (usually) wide.
Descents took great concentration. Winds were gusty and changed direction. Large trucks pushed us aside with their headwind.
Cars honked and gave us the thumbs up as they passed. It always lifts the spirit and strokes the ego.
The last 30km into Rimouski was not in the original plan, but was a treat. It was a chance to decompress after two days of vigorous highway riding, and to renew our remembrance of the gentleness of the north shore.
We were windswept and cold that evening. It was time for food. My metabolism raged.
We were just at the stage where we feel like taking a break in a trip. The timing was perfect.
And so we are done. We have ridden slightly fewer kilometers than in Spain in half the time. Some climbs have been harder but shorter, and the downhills far more efficient (less braking). In the section between Sainte Anne de Monts and Perce we climbed as much each day as we did in the Pyrenees.
As a ride, the Gaspe has lived up to expectations.
The inland days were less dramatic, and the south shore road turns in to cross headlands quite often.
The north shore has a wilder, more lonesome feel to it. The south shore is more built up, in the sense that communities run into one another and houses look like houses rather than cottages.
The scent of wild roses was everywhere.
In general the Route de Verte was very generous in its choice of roads. There is s wide shoulder for almost the entire length. Those sections that do not have a shoulder are very short.
Drivers were very good to us. There are a lot of transport trucks, including wood trucks. They don't slow down but they make room when they pass. All in all we did not feel unsafe at all in traffic.
"You're French is excellent." I can't believe my ears. I have been told this now a few times, and all I'm doing is ordering off a menu. Bring on the spoons!!
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