Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 13. "The best-laid plans of mice and men …

Alas, my beautiful plans for a hard core ride in Nova Scotia have evaporated on account of my hurting knee. I spent an uneasy night, now and then with a pang of pain, and in the morning I got in the internet and read about bicycling injuries. The mechanics of pedaling are such, that if your seat is too low, by as little as half an inch, the down stroke (the power stroke) may cause an uneven pull in the muscles of the outside of the leg in contrast to the muscles inside. This puts stress on the tendons that tie to the knee cap (or patella). The patella is pulled subtly off-kilter and forces through the patello-femoral joint increase, causing diffuse pain around the knee-cap (what in the vernacular is called anterior knee pain). The cure is RICE or repose, icing, compression, and elevation.

I had been riding reasonably high, but still moved the seat up by half an inch and went for a trial run to the Chute Montmorency, a rather imposing waterfall about 20 km away. At times it seemed that I could actually pedal OK, but from time to time the stab of pain would come back, to remind me not be cocky about it. On the way back I noticed I was favoring the other leg to provide the power, which is a recipe for hurting the good leg.

I could have rested for a couple of days and see how much I could improve by then, but if I kept up stressing the knee I could pay for it in the form of serious damage that would haunt me for years to come. So, with great disappointment I have decided to cut my loses, stop the trip (I had never done so before!), and go back home to nurse my wounds.

So this is the end of this blog, since I don’t have the heart to chronicle a retreat. I just hope that prudence today will allow me to continue adventuring for many years to come. I leave you with a quote from Pablo Cohelo: “If you think that adventure is dangerous, I suggest you try routine. Routine is deadly!”


Monday, July 21, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 12. Around Québec City

I had a grand day playing tourist. To begin with I had to figure out a way of getting from Laval University to downtown without having to pedal upward all the time. It would have been a lot easier if I had a decent map, but with what little I had I cut north, to a small creek, rightly thinking that all small rivers lead to the big river. Good luck was with me, and after zig-zagging a bit I found a bicycle path that took me all the way to the wharves, and from there to the “low city”, which was the original location of the settlement founded by Samuel de Champlain in the 1608. This low part of the city is on a narrow bar formed at the foot of the cliff, and is now occupied by all sorts of quaint shops arranged around the original church and its small plaza. I decided to park my bike in this part of the town, and after wandering through the lively streets I worked my way on foot up the cliff to Vieux Québec.

Vieux Québec is a citadel atop a very steep cliff, surrounded by ramparts where cannons made it impregnable (until the British scaled the cliffs about a mile downstream and defeated the French army in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759). The old city is dominated by a castle-like resort that looks very ancient but is probably no more than 80 years old, and by the original buildings of Université Laval, which grew from the Seminar de Québec, established in 1663. The university is the oldest higher education institution in Canada. I wandered happily among the old buildings, window shopping and enjoying the very European feeling of the old city.

Another unique attraction of the old city is the Promenade des Governors, which is a broad walking path that hangs off the cliff and connects the old city with the old fort and the Plains on Abraham to the west. Besides being a favorite path of joggers and tourists, it is probably the best place to admire the St. Lawrence River as it widens downstream from the city.

Thoroughly relaxed after my promenade through the city I took to my bike, and went all around the city and up the southern shore of the river. Hundreds of people were there, happily bicycling along (a few couples and families, but also lots and lots of singles), or roller blading. At the very end of the bicycling path there is a small park with many young trees, which has been taken over by the reading society. Mostly older couples bring their folding chairs, get under the shade of one of the young trees, and read to their hearts’ content, enjoying the view of the river and the gentle breeze. I was energized to do the same thing, pulled out my Kindle, and promptly dozed off.

To get back in the afternoon I had to bike all the way back to the “low city”, and from there followed my original trek back to the university following the biking path. Truly, seeing Québec by bike is a great way to discover dozens of small parks and gardens. It is a lovely city with many attractive suburbs. The only thing is that cursed ridge. I huffed and puffed pushing my bicycle up the slope, but finally made it to the top. I was getting ready to mount on my bike, swinging my right leg over the sit as I pushed with my left leg, when a sharp pain stabbed my left knee. Rats! I am going to have to be very careful with that knee, because I still have 20 days to go! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 11. Lévis to Quebec (40 km)

I stayed the night at Lévis, across the river from Quebec, and today in the morning I did the crossing using the ferry. Once I got to the Quebec side I stopped at the booth of a line of river cruises, and asked them if it was possible to take a boat from Quebec to Rivier-du-Loup, a ride I was planning to do next Wednesday. The girl looked at me with big eyes and told me "Mais non, monsieur, ca se tres loin d’ici." "Far away?", asked I. "How far?" And she pulled out a map and showed me that the distance from Quebec to Riviere-du-Loup is the same as the distance from Montreal to Quebec! And I was planning to cover that distance in one day. Ha!

It was time to put my thinking cap on, and figure out a way out of my silly mistake. Fortunately my wanderings took me to La Gare de Quebec, where all the long-distance buses come in. Right away I went in, asked, and was assured that on Wednesday I will be able to take a bus to Riviere-du-Loup, so I won't have to bust my knees trying to get there on time to take the train to Halifax.

I then stopped at the port, to look at the channel locks (esclusas in Spanish that allow boats to come in and out of the marina into the river, and just by chance got to visit the Marie Clarie, a 1920’s schooner (goleta in Spanish; a two mast sailboat, where the main sail goes in the back mast. The schooner has been lovingly renovated, and a lively girl in the costume of a ship’s boy gave me a great summary of its history, first as a fishing vessel, then as a cargo vessel, and finally as a pleasure cruiser. A very cool piece of history.

For the rest of the day I wandered along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River, not wholly committed to enter the City of Quebec. The simple reason for this is that Quebec occupies the top of a long ridge, and it is hard work pushing the loaded bike up those steep slopes. Finally I did it, but only to ride away from “uptown” to the campus of Laval University, where I will make my abode for the next three nights. I have now clocked a total distance of 500 km from the time I first got on the bike in Montreal!

At Laval University I am staying in one of the dorm rooms, which is nicely appointed with TV, mini-fridge, and its own bathroom. I did the shopping thing, and I cooked my own dinner, but I had to use my own cooking camping utensils, because the kitchens do not have any common use pots and pans. Dinner was actually quite yummy (poached salmon with herb rice, accompanied with red wine), but it was too much of a hazzle and I may do the fast food thing for the next couple of days.

Tomorrow I will be a plain tourist. I am going to go down to the river with the bike, follow it north to the base of the cliff atop which is the historic center, park the bike, and proceed from there on foot. I am going to try to give my left knee a break (I have bought a knee brace as well) while enjoying this beautiful city.    

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 10. Dosquet to Lévis (70 km)

Another perfect bicycling day, which unfortunately means there is not much to say. After leaving Dosquet the bike path starts following several urban parks, where lots and lots of folks were using the opportunity for doing some Saturday morning exercise. Approaching the St. Lawrence River I had to cross the Parc des Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere, which if I remember correctly is where the first hydroelectric plant was built in the province of Quebec. Since then the Quebecois have been busy little bees building other hydroelectric projects, and today the province is the main power producer of Canada. The Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere themselves are some pretty waterfalls, which the tourist can admire from the middle of an imposing hanging bridge.

The next leg of the trip gets a little tricky, due to poor signalization of the Route Vert. However, “preguntando se llega a Roma” and by asking I soon took the right path and eventually made it to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. This is an extremely posh area, with small villas built by the shore of the river. In the distance across the river, the beautiful city of Quebec tempts the traveler to cross the river, but for today I will stay on the south shore since I am not expected in the city until tomorrow.

My left knee is definitely hurting by now. I seem to recover just fine overnight, and am good for about six hours the following day, but anything more than that is asking for trouble. I am not a fan of creams, for I don’t think they penetrate the impermeable skin, but I may make an exception tomorrow when I get to the city, even if it only for the placebo effect.

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 9. Victoriaville to Dosquet (70 km)

A glorious day and a beautiful bike path! I was not in a hurry because I am one day ahead of myself, so I biked slowly, taking in the sun, the gentle breeze, and the green all around me. The Route Vert 1 is built on what used to be the train tracks (the tracks have been pulled out and the route filled with road base, so it is flat and smooth), so the ride is uncomplicated and pleasant. Unfortunately that doesn’t give me much to talk about, so today’s entry is a very short one.

I made my way to Dosquet around 4 pm, and to my great delight I found that the town has an Auberge where I could spend the night. My host is an older gentleman, who has restored a beautiful mansion as a hostel. It has been a labor of love, and I rejoiced on the chance to spend the night in such genteel surroundings.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 8. Saint-Guillaume to Victoriaville (100 km)

As planned I woke up early, with the idea of getting an early start. I was pretty sure I was the only one in the hostel, so there was no problem going across the corridor to the shower on my skimpies, carrying in a small bundle my towel, soap, and riding shorts. No sooner had I stepped out of my room when I froze as I heard the “click” of my bedroom door. Oh no, the key was in the pocket of my shorts inside the room! Trying to remain calm I went ahead and took a shower, thinking furiously about what to do. Thank God I had my riding shorts with me, though on someone of my body shape they are nothing I would want to impose on anyone else. As soon as I was “dressed” I started looking for something I could use to jimmy the door open. What I needed was something stiff, like a credit card, but my wallet was also inside the room. I looked throughout the hostel and found a piece of cardboard and some plastic coffee stir sticks, but after a quarter hour I had to give up for they were not stiff enough.

It was 6:30 am, so it was not like I could go out into the town to look for a locksmith (besides, I was feeling vulnerable and would not want to parade myself through the town in my riding shorts, and with no shoes or shirt. What if I had to wait until 3 pm for the bar to open?! I had to put all my hopes on the cleaning lady, although I had no idea at what time she might come. For all I knew she liked to sleep in and would not show up until noon or 2 pm. So I opened the door of the hostel, hoping a neighbor would see it and would feel like investigating, and I sat on a chair by the door, intent on grabbing at any opportunity that might come my way.

Fortunately the cleaning lady was an early riser, and her car pulled in at about 8 am. She must have been quite startled when she saw a half naked portly man happily crying “Ah madame, je suis tres hereaux de vous voir! But she rallied herself and in no time grabbed the master key and let me into my room. Once I was properly clad she fixed me a cup of coffee and we had a nice chat (of which I got about half of what was being said, because she was using Quebecois French). She was one more of the very friendly Canadians I have met during this trip, and I am deeply grateful that thanks to her I was able to hit the road by 9:30.

It was a pretty ride first to Drummondville and then to Victoriaville, through the same agricultural country of the day before. It was long, though, so by the time I arrived to Victoriaville I was pretty tired. Counting both days my “little detour” took me about 180 km, but from here to Quebec City should be only 110 km, which I felt I could easily cover I two leisurely days. Wait … two days? Today is Thursday, so I would be arriving to Quebec City on Saturday. Rats! I am not scheduled to get there until Sunday, so now I have to find a way to burn one day in between. Ay, ay, ay!

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 7. Berthierville to Saint-Guillaume (80 km)

There I was, squeezing myself between the highway traffic and the grass, when I realized that riding this way was no fun. That was all that a little devil whispering in my ear needed to do his work, and without knowing how I found myself crossing the river and headed south for Route Vert 1, 100 km away. I once again went through the Iles de Berthier, took a ferry across the last channel of the river, and started a long, long way across beautiful agricultural land.

I was quite satisfied with my decision, but I had not planned for this departure from the route, and I had no maps whatsoever of the area I was crossing. All I knew is that eventually I wanted to join the Route Vert 1 in Victoriaville, but I figured that I could ask my way there. Unfortunately this is sparsely populated country, so it was not easy to find someone to ask, so I ended getting lost and making 30 km more than strictly necessary.

Finally I got to the small town of Saint-Guillaume, a quaint ag community in the middle of nowhere. I stopped in the little park in front of the church, and a friendly native asked me where I was coming from and where I was headed to. He shook his head when I told him I was going to Victoriaville, and he told me I had another 50 or 60 km to go. A little discouraged I asked if there was a camping place nearby, and he told me that the nearest was in Drumondville, 30 km away. Seeing my face of disappointment he told me I could pass the night at the municipal hostel, and could enjoy the best meal ever at Café Favori.

So I went a couple of blocks, stopped at a grand old mansion with the sign Auberge in the front, and arranged to spend the night there. The auberge also functions as the local bar, and is only open from 3 pm to midnight. I was to have the run of the hostel itself, and was asked to close the door behind me after I left, and that the lady that does the cleaning would show up sometime during the day. Cool!

Dinner at Café Favori was great. The menu of the day included soup, a main course of quiche, coleslaw, and mashed potatoes, and a big peace of cake with dates as dessert. Not much to do here, so I will go to bed early, and will try to get an early start to reach Victoriaville in time for lunch.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 6. Saint-Sulpice to Berthierville (70 km)

I woke up early, took a luxurious bath, breakfasted a big bowl of oatmeal, and off I went on the next leg of the trip. The morning was overcast but dry, and with any luck the rain would hold. It held long enough for me to make it to the next town (Lavaltrie), where I looked for the hardware store and bought a tent. It was very awkward to rig the tent onto my already overloaded bike (thank God for bungee cords), but now I was prepared for all (ah, the folly of man).

Unfortunately the Route Vert 5 in several stretches simply follows the local roads, as my friend Stephane had warned me in Montreal, so although the ride is pretty with the river on sight, it is not as peaceful as following the Route Vert 3. Oh, oh, I think I felt a drop. This time I was not going to get wet, so I pulled out my Vietnamese poncho (the best rain gear I have ever had) and continued pedaling down the road.

At exactly 40 km by the odometer, I arrived at the outskirts of the town of Berthierville, under a pretty steady rain. I stopped at a little hotel to inquire about cost of their rooms ($65 as opposed to the $90 I had paid yesterday) and about nearby camping places. The helpful innkeeper pulled out the tourist guide for the county, and confirmed that there was a camping park about 20 km away. I thanked him, stepped out unto what was by now a pouring rain, and after 5 minutes of contemplation went back to the office and booked a room. It had to be about 1 pm, and I felt like a total wimp for running this way from the rain, but the prospect of pitching a tent under a deluge had no real appeal to me.

I did my best to use the time wisely, doing some of the editorial work that I have been chipping at for the last two weeks, but after a couple of hours I was getting cabin fever. I started looking around the room and found out that the town of Berthierville has laid out a wonderful biking circuit of the Iles de Berthier, two large river islands. That did it. Taking advantage of a lull in the rain I got out and went for a fabulous 30 km ride through one of the prettiest landscapes I have seen in this civilized part of Canada. The islands and their in-between channels are mostly devoted to agriculture, but with their knack for building beautiful places the local residents have turned them into an endless garden.

On the way back I stopped by the supermarket, bought a nice tray of sushi, and reasonably tired I retired to my warm and dry little room, to write this blog and watch Fast and Furious 2 (dubbed in French, naturellment). 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 5. Montreal to Saint-Sulpice (80 km)

The trek has begun! I actually started late, at 9 am, because it took a while to pack and repack so I could get all my stuff into the saddle bags and basket. I was doing great until I figured I had to stop at the supermarket to buy food for a couple of days (a very simple menu of oatmeal for the mornings, a couple of apples for today’s lunch, two packs of pasta, and a can of tuna and a can of ham to tidy me over the next couple of days.

My plan was to ride a comparatively short distance to the bridge that could take me to the Parc national des Isles de Boucherville, which includes all of an island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River. Alas, I went round and round, misled by kind but misinformed Montrealites, until finally one of them explained to me that the bridge was not a bridge but a tunnel, and bicycles were not allowed. If I wanted to get to the park I would have to go back to Montreal to cross to the other shore of the river, and from there I “might” be able to cross. The “might” did it for me, so with tears in my eyes I retook the main trail north, toward Quebec City, with the idea of doing no more than 50 km this day.

I have a series of maps I had downloaded from Velo Quebec, where presumably the campgrounds along the route are clearly identified. Right! The “campground” I was headed for ended being a hotel (friendly to cyclists, but not a campground). I was at 60 km according to my odometer, but I was told there was an actual campground 10 km down the road. By this time I was getting tired (actually, my derrier was starting to ask for me to stop), but I figured I could push for another 10 km. So I did, and I got to the campground (by now the odometer read 70 km), and a very nice lady was ready to welcome me, but then I explained that I didn’t have a tent but a hammock. “Desole!” she said with genuine regret, “but we don’t have any place where two trees are close enough together.” Silly me; a hammock might be the best option if you are cycling through the Rockies, where there is dense forest all around. Here by a large river trees are found, to be sure, but they dot the landscape here and there, surrounded by a lot of rushes. Campgrounds further challenge the tree offerings by opening ground for campers and tents. Rats! The lady suggested I could push forward another 10 km, because she thought there was another campground at the next city.

What to do? I could push forward another 10 km and try my luck, or I could go back 10 km to the hotel I had seen. Prudence is the best part of valor, so I turned around, and by the click of 80 km in the odometer I got to the hotel, to spend the night in luxury (it plays havoc on the travel budget, however, because hotels are pretty expensive in Canada).

So, on top of carrying a lot of stuff (including a useless hammock), I am going to have to buy a tent in Trois-Riviers, a 100 km from here. Since I want to ride no more than 50 km per day that still leaves one night in between when I will have to improvise. Never a dull moment when in a biking adventure J

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 4. Drizzle all day long

Today in the early morning the sky was overcast, and there was a drizzle. Today was also my last full day in Montreal, and I took advantage of the opportunity to leave the bike at home and take to the town on foot. My plan was to climb Mount Royal (or Mont Real, from which the city takes its name). My left knee has been complaining, so instead of taking the path straight up, I walked the long, gentle road to the top. By the time I got there I was drenched but in good cheer. The view from the top is probably glorious, but I got to see the city shrouded in mist.

After a cup of hot chocolate I headed straight down, past McGill University, and headed for downtown intent on finding a cinema where I could hole for a couple of hours. It was too early, however, so I took a stroll along Sainte Catherine Avenue. Sunday is a big party time for the Montrealites, and the avenue was closed to traffic so everyone could go for a stroll and listen to the street musicians. My favorite was a percussion group, about 20 strong, that happily banged on their drums while keeping pace with a very sophisticated choreography.

Eventually I made it to the movies, but at first I got into the wrong movie theater, and ended seeing the best part of both The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men. I was glad to have extracted the most out of my 13$ ticket (that is Canadian for $13).

I got home early, cooked a delicious rice with mushrooms, and am now facing the task of washing the clothes I am wearing and packing all my stuff for the trip to Quebec City. I am giving myself 7 days to cover the 300 km, so it should be an easy ride of about 40 km per day, north along the Saint Lawrence River. I will be incommunicado for that time, but if time and opportunity permit I will keep writing my daily blog, and will send several days together when I reach Quebec City. A bien tot!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 3. Week-ends du Monde

I love my new bike! It rides smooth, is really pretty (it is a red Bonellii, a good Canadian brand), and is light. Now my only concern is that someone might steal it while I am in Montreal or Quebec City (Canadians are super-honest people, but apparently bikes are fair game).

I took my bike for a spin back to Ile Sainte-Hellene, where I wanted to visit the Museum of the Environment. The museum is housed in what was the US pavilion in the 1967 World Expo, which in very American style was big, futuristic, and impressive. As museums go it was OK, without being Wow. One of the sections was devoted to photographs from the North Pole, and that was pretty cool.

In the afternoon I hung out in the island, walking through the booths of Week-ends du Monde, a festival lasting two consecutive weekends to celebrate the peoples of the world. This particular Saturday the emphasis was in Latin America, with big areas dedicated to Peru (and its cuisine, products, music and dance) and El Salvador (ditto). The main activity was eating, of course, but they had four different stages and I saw all sorts of folk dances. One particularly cool performance was in a tent for maybe 100 people, where each person was provided with a drum. The group of six performers carried most of the music, but the public was invited to participate and drum away in rhythm with the music. Great fun!

I came back early to the hostel, where I had a delicious lobster sandwich I bought in the way in, and then sat down to do editorial work on a bunch of chapters I have pending for the new book Applied Geology in California that my friend Bob Anderson and I are editing.

Tomorrow is the final of the World Cup. Go Germany!

P.S.. I had finished writing and posting my blog around 9 pm, and was ready to head for bed, when one of the guys working at the hostel asked me if I was going to accompany them to see the fireworks. Yes, of course! At 9:30 we headed out toward the river, and by 10 pm we were in place to see the most glorious display of fireworks you can imagine. The riverside was packed with people, and for at least half an hour we were all riveted to the wiggly trace of the rockets, and the rosettes they painted for us on the sky. Seeing this whole crowd flow away from the river after the fireworks were done was also something to behold.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 2. Around Montreal

Another glorious day. I had breakfast at the hostel, and then called United to find out about my suitcase. The automated service advised me that the suitcase had left the airport and was on its way to the address in record. So I sat with my computer, writing a paper review, until finally at 10:30 I gave up, annoyed to wasting my time in Montreal. So I rented a bike for $20 for the day, and off I went.

I came down the hill to the St. Lawrence River, right to the old port of Montreal. Like in San Francisco, the wharves have been converted into more gentrified uses. The one that caught my attention was the Science Museum, which was advertising a special exhibition of the cave paintings of Lascaux, in the Dordogne region of France. So I parked the bike, paid the entrance fee, and was transported into one of the most interesting museums I have seen. The first part dealt with the discovery of Lascaux in the late 1940’s, and with the development until the 1960’s, when it was discovered that the influx of tourists was damaging the paintings. First the visits were restricted, but the people kept coming in droves (and were quite unhappy when they were turned away), so the French government created a copy of the cave (with narrow passages and all), and had an army of artists reproduce the marvelous paintings. Fast forward 50 years, and now they have the technology to create computer models, and quite precise replicas of the walls of the cave, and that is precisely on display at the Science Museum. Before they let you into the “cave”, however, you get to see all sorts of cool displays and films about the techniques used by the Cromagnon artists who painted marvelous herds of reindeer, bulls in battle, horses running through the country, and a large black Aurochs cow. It is only after you are steeped in admiration for the techniques and details that you walk into a hall where the individual walls have been recreated, and where the paintings jump out of the rock at you, that you realize the magnificence of the art created 19,000 years ago. It was a fabulous experience.

After that I followed the river for a while, but I had it in my mind that I wanted to find a Target store, where I thought I could buy a cheap pre-paid cell phone, and that took me back into downtown. I did find a Target, but they didn’t have anything and sent me further into downtown to a cell phone store. At the end I found that yes, I could buy a phone for the month I was here, but the price tag was too high, and I don’t have anyone to call anyway, so I finally gave up.

I went back to the river and started going on the opposite direction, intent on crossing the bridge Jacques Cartier over the St. Lawrence River to get to the Ile Sainte.-Hellene and Ile Notre-Dame, two small islands in the middle of the river, who are one of the big recreational spaces of Montreal. Getting over the river was tough, because the bridge rises and rises to a high point before coming back down to the islands. Great views, though. Once in the island I went to visit the Stewart Museum, which occupies the old munitions depot of the British when they took over the French possessions in the 18th century. The museum had a great exhibition about the history of discovery and conquest of French Canada, from the first nations all the way to the formation of the two Canadas (French and English), and the final consolidation of the country in the mid 19th century. I was lucky enough to have a guided tour of one, and kept up with my Quebecois guide for the first half. But then other people joined us, and he started speaking so fast, and using Quebecois accent and words, that my poor brain went blank. Very nice young man, but boy could he speak fast!

I spent the rest of the afternoon touring the islands, and I plan to go back tomorrow because they are having an International Festival, with booths from all over the world. I forgot to mention that Ile Sainte-Hellene was enlarged for the World Expo of 1967, so there are all sorts of interesting buildings, left over from the Expo. A very interesting one is a geodesic dome that hosts the Museum of the Environment. It was too late to visit it, but I may give it a go tomorrow.

Back at the hostel I fell in conversation with a fellow from New Orleans, who had just arrived and was planning on spending two weeks in Montreal. We exchanged stories and he mentioned that he was planning on buying a bike for the two weeks. Well, I told him, I happen to have a friend who is in the business of selling or renting bikes, and he is coming to deliver me a bike in half hour. So he came down with me, and together we waited for Stephane (Stephane Lapointe-VELO-BIKE bikes@pistescyclables.ca  www.stephanelapointe.com)  He arrived in good time at 8:30 pm, as we had previously arranged, in his van, which is actually a fully equipped bike shop. He took his time showing me the two bikes he had brought for me, and it just so happened that the one I didn’t choose was just right for Jordan, so we both got to do business. I cannot emphasize enough that Stephane is a bicycle wiz, and very knowledgeable about routes and the best way to enjoy a bicycling vacation in Quebec. If you ever come this way, he is your man.

At the end I bought from him a great aluminum-frame bike, fully accessorized with fenders, rack, basket, trip computer, lights, and spare inner tube for $350, which was a total bargain. Now that I have my expeditionary vehicle the adventure is ready to start!

P.S. United delivered my suitcase without a hitch, but now that I look at all the stuff I brought I am beginning to wonder how am I going to carry all that stuff in a single bike!  

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 1. Travel to Montreal

This is the story of my bicycling adventure from Montreal to Quebec City, and later around Nova Scotia. I have come back to Montreal and Quebec City because they are places where I experienced great happiness two years ago, but since this time I am alone I have the goal of exploring new places and people in this French-speaking portion of Canada. I think Canadians are kind and generous people, and I am looking forward to a great adventure.

Faby, DJ and I left from Modesto at 3 am, and by 4:30 am we were at Sacramento airport, in plenty of time to catch my 6 am flight, frist to Denver and from there to Montreal. Unfortunately United had decided to change my reservation to a 5 am flight, first to San Francisco and from there to Montreal. End result, my suitcase made it to the San Francisco plane, but I was delayed in security control and missed the plane. No big deal, since they promptly rebooked me through Chicago and then Montreal, but the end result is that I landed with no luggage.

Otherwise Montreal welcomed me with open arms. The weather was a dream, sunny but not too hot, I had Canadian dollars in my pocket, and I knew my way around bus lines and the downtown area. The folks at Alexandrie Hostel were, as usual, super, and din’t bat an eye at changing my reservation from a double to a single (I only saved $30, but is thought that counts), and gave me acute little apartment overlooking a quiet corner that could be anywhere in Europe (or French Canada, of course).

My first walk through the city was glorious. All the cafes had tables al fresco, folks were enjoying a Friday afternoon, and Rue St. Denis (the Quartier Latin of Monteal) was at its best with an outdoor exhibition of Cirque de Soleil and tons of folks strolling around.

I did all the things you are supposed to do when you first arrive in a foreign city, including going to the bank to get even more money, sipping a coffee in one of the many terrace cafes, trying to get my cell phone to work here (unsuccessful), and buying soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste (my bag is supposed to arrive tomorrow, so tonight I will do the time-honored tradition of washing my clothes so tomorrow I am not Pepe Le Peu.

For dinner I had a half bottle of red wine and fondue, happily remembering the same meal I had with my parents a week ago in Monclova. The night is pleasant and I think I will now stroll to the terrace of my small apartment for a night cap. A votre santé!