I didn’t quite make it all the way, but nature rewarded me, just the same.
This first solo bike touring trip was on the back-burner of my mind for at least 3 years. I sent the invite to many friends but none seemed keen enough to do it in almost full autonomy, like I planned. Or, you know, because: life.
It’s nothing really extreme, it’s just something I wanted to try for a long time.
In Quebec, a network of bike path, called La Route Verte, zigzags the most part of the province. It’s being threatened. The government wants to stop supporting it. There’s a petition online to sign, if you are interested to save it: http://cauzio.org/en/save-our-route-verte/save-our-route-verte
The trip consisted in carrying my tent, stove, food, clothing and toothbrush, etc… along the St-Lawrence river, on the south shore, from Montmagny to Rivière-du-Loup. That’s about 140 Km and because I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, I planned four days, including one rest day in my favorite spot: Kamouraska. That was plan A. Plan B was to cross over the river on the ferry at Rivière-du-Loup and continue, as long as I could on the north shore, from Saint-Siméon to Tadoussac.
Plan A is flat and quaint villages (with awesome food and overcrowded campgrounds) are scattered every 10 km. However, the south shore is renown for the wind. Most of the time it’s blowing eastward, so most cyclists will do the route from west to east. But once in a while, the Nordet blows (west and south). The winds get channeled down the river and pick up speed. Needless to say, they are an eastbound cyclist nightmare. Other than that, the Route Verte follows the 132 road, most of the way, but the shoulder is generally wide and the traffic is slowish, as the highway runs along not far.
Plan B is mountainous and the shoulders are often very narrow, sometimes nonexistent. More importantly, the Route Verte is on Road 138, which is the only road there. Heavy trucks and stressed out drivers are passing by cyclists at high-speed. The wind, however, seems to be less of an issue (so I’ve been told).
The first day of my ride, the Nordet was strong. I barely made it through the first planned leg, a mere 43 Km. I had no experience and I learned my first lesson: plan for food BEFORE you set your tent up. My efforts caused me to experience some troubles with my intestines. I pushed for every single meters along the 4300 meters of the way. I averaged a speed of 14 Km/h. A fellow cyclist on a speed bike, no luggage, passed me by and exclaimed he could only reach a speed of 26 Km/h. I huffed and puffed all the way to the campground and when it was time to get cooking, I had to bike 6 km to the nearest village and back. I decided to eat a granola bar instead and go to bed. Luckily, my parents, who drove me to my starting point and who agreed to come pick me up at plan A or B destination, had decided to cruise along. They texted me that evening, to see how I was doing. They came to rescue me.
The next day, the wind blew eastward and I had no difficulties, except for the remnants of my ailment, to reach the 65 Km goal I had set. I had planned a rest day there. To be exact, I had planned a kayak tour in the Pèlerin islands near Kamouraska. That’s when I learned my second lesson: rest days should be just that, restful. My predicament combined with unusual heat for the month of September got me to cancel all my activities and I slept in my tent all afternoon. Which was the best thing that could have happened really.
On the fourth and last day, I averaged a speed of 20-25 Km/h. Okay, the wind was helping a little but I think it’s also because I rested the day before and recovered from my first awful leg. I woke up that morning knowing that I had to decide to cross or not the St-Lawrence. I checked the weather forecast, which announced three days of rain and risks of thunderstorms on the north shore. Not really appealing. This is when I learned my third lesson: never trust the weather forecast.
For years, I’ve been bragging about being a true outdoor woman and play outside, rain or shine. This time, I got influenced by the forecast and, as it turned out, it was wrong. It rained twice, short, intense rain-pour, but really manageable and definitely not something that should have stopped me in my plan. In any case, I called the technical support team (my parents) and told them to come pick me up at the ferry dock. The next day, at home, I realized my mistake and decided to go watch the whales anyways and drive there. Bad weather was still in the forecast, but I just ignored it.
I drove to Les Bergeronnes, a nearly yearly pilgrimage destination for me and set camp at the closest spot to the water I could find. I felt a bit ashamed for needing my parents so much and for cutting my trip short. I fought hard to not allow my inner criticizing speech to go on for long, though. I told myself repeatedly that I should be proud I finally set out to try my biking tour. My first ever biking (almost) solo tour. I pondered the lessons learned and repeated that these will come in handy when I set out for my next biking tour. Although, I truly hope the next one will be with someone else, if only to share the load!
In the end, mother Nature, in its non-judgmental way, offered me the best reward of all. This magnificent sunrise punctuated with the sound of mink whales breathing at the surface, just a few meters from my tent. I made it!