Saturday, 28 June 2008

On memories from the road

Between losing my camera and other things, I never quite got around to finishing writing my impressions from Phase 1. Leaving Quebec City was interesting as the number of short range recreational riders dropped off dramatically. This was partly due to the rain but also to the more challenging terrain. The few cyclists I saw on the day I left Quebec City were obviously hard-core, long distance types like myself (i.e. loaded with stuff). There was also a guy on a skateboard, with ski poles and a large backpack. One of the poles had a variant Canadian flag on it with the borders in green or blue instead of red. At the youth hostel in Rivière-du-Loup I heard that he had stopped there and that he claimed that his means of transportation was faster that a bike, something I find hard to credit. He was on a trans-Canada trip.

There is a project afoot to build a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal a certain distance downriver from Quebec City. There were a significant number of posters on people's lawns protesting the decision. While I could understand that they were unhappy about the development, I felt that a lot of people who had put the signs up were being somewhat hypocritical. I admit that the region is question is very pretty and that a LNG port would take something away from the charm of the region. But a lot of the charm has already been taken away by some of the protesters. Many of them obviously decided to build a "nice" (i.e. suburban) house in the country and to commute into Quebec City to work. To say that their houses are a blight on the landscape is probably going too far but many of them sure weren't pretty. As well, they are driving their cars quite a distance to get to and from work. Where do they think hydrocarbons come from? One house I rode past had three vehicles in the driveway: 1 Jeep Cherokee, 1 Lexus car and 1 Lexus SUV. Sorry, we aren't talking about farmers here, unless it happens to be weed they are growing. I am not sympathetic to these NIMBY-ites. The St-Lawrence river isn't just a pretty backdrop. From before the start of recorded history in these parts, it has been a (very) efficient highway for all kinds of goods.

Enough ranting, back to fun memories. On the plains of Abraham, I came across an assortment of cannons gathered from various locations in Eastern Canada. The one that interested me the most was an English cannon found near English Bay on Anticosti Island. Many years ago, I spent part of one summer on Anticosti Island. Since then, the place has held an interest to me. If only I could remember where English Bay (or Baie des Anglais) is on the Island.

Near the brewery I visited, I was traveling through some fields next to the sea. There was a movement of something big swimming in a deep drainage ditch next to the road. I stopped and went back to look thinking and hoping it was an eel or a large fish. It was a semi-aquatic mammal. It looked at me and I looked at it. As I crept nearer, it dove down and backwards to disappear out of sight, leaving me with a doubt in my mind as what it was. The possibilities are A. an otter or B. a muskrat. Both species are to be found in the area. An otter would be much more fun to have seen. On the other hand, muskrats are more common and their Wikipedia article does specifically mention their use of drainage ditches. I like to think that the aquabatic way it disappeared means it was an otter.

When I was on the bike path from Richmond to Quebec City, the long straight sections through trees would often times play optical tricks. If we consider this photo for instance:

The gap between the trees in the distance gives the impression that the path goes up a hill as the colour of the gravel merges with the colour of the sky. At other times, there would a whitish house blocking the path that turned out to be the sky framed by overhanging trees.

The youth hostel in Rivière-du-Loup offered supper at a very reasonable rate of $9 for a three-course meal including a glass of wine. The first course was a salad that included a few blueberries. As I was feeling waggish, I picked one up, turned to the twenty-year old Frenchman who was sitting beside me and asked in French if he knew what it was. His first guess was an olive. With a certain relish, I told him that it was a "bleuet" and started a discussion of the differences between Québécois and European French. In Québécois French, a "bleuet" is a blueberry. In Euro-French, a "bleuet" is a species of small blue flower. A blueberry is a North American variety of "myrtille" in Euro-French. Sometimes it is fun to gently tease the French from France.

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