Yeah, this is kind of a saga. These posts will detail my necessary adventures to reach the most isolated place in the song.
OK. Let’s do a quick review. Here is Schefferville:
Go ahead. Zoom out. It will take a few clicks before you see anything else.
When the planning of this potential trip was still in its infancy, the inclusion of Schefferville worried me. How is there a place in the song that is not accessible by road? How am I going to get there?
I had done a lot of research and planning in how I was going to reach this destination. It turns out, as per usual, that I had no idea what I was doing. Let’s pick up the story as soon as I begin to head north, right after completing Ottawa.
Thursday, September 7th (cont.)
I headed east from Ottawa towards Montreal. Time to enter a foreign language locale for the first time on my trip. The Quebecois really love their language. There is an interesting dynamic which shows how strong this is. Throughout most of Canada, especially in Ontario, official signs along the road are bilingual: First English then French. Even when a portable construction billboard is needed, two are rolled out to facilitate the two languages. Upon entering Quebec, however, English completely disappears. This is kind of funny to me, considering that Quebec is probably the most bilingual province in Canada (citation needed).
I had postponed my Spanish study for a couple of days, focusing on French instead. I always want to begin every conversation in French and take it as far as I can before switching to English (or hand signals). That just seems like the respectful thing to do. I’ve gotten pretty good at the phrase, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French. I speak English, German or Spanish.” At least I can give some options. 🙂
The only problem with greeting people with “Bon Jour” is that I naturally repeat it in my head four times, then bust into think-singing this Alan Menken classic:
My first Quebec stop was a visitor center just across the border. I practiced my French greetings in the parking lot before entering. The lady there was absolutely fantastic. You never know what you are going to get at these places, but I could tell this lady (I totally forgot her name….let’s go with Sophie) was legit right away. As she pointed out places on the map, she wrote notes UPSIDE DOWN so I could see it as she was explaining it.
When I told Sophie where I was going she let out a little gasp and had to dig through her drawers to find the appropriate information. The best pamphlet I received was a guide for the road up to Labrador. It showed all of the fuel stops and the distance between landmarks. I would not need to carry extra fuel. Yay!
I left with a full sack of pertinent information and even got to practice some of my French phrases. I cannot imagine a better welcome to the province.
On the edge of Montreal, I made another stop to attempt to find a sim card (is this number five, six?), this time at a Best Buy. The guys there were super helpful, but I couldn’t find what I wanted. I decided to finally let the sim card go and continue with what I had.
I had another big decision to make: To get my new tire now or later. There was one waiting for me around the Vermont/New York/Quebec border. I could dip down and get it quick, but then I would need to find a place to get it installed. Doing so could cost me a day and being a day behind could actually put me four days behind due to the schedule of the train to Schefferville. I decided to roll on with my old tire, hoping the decision would not be a fateful one.
I continued for another hour or so until darkness began to creep in. Time to go tent spot hunting again. I did not want to repeat the frustration of the last couple of nights, so I only gave myself 30 minutes to find a place. If I hadn’t by then, I would go to a real campground. My search time expired quickly and I set a course for Camping Alouette.
The office was closed by the time I got there and the signage was all in French. I could not make sense of what I was supposed to do. Thankfully, a couple wearing Kawasaki jackets happened to come by and could tell I was confused (my default expression, actually). They did not speak English, but were able to show me the envelope to take to enter the campground. I would then settle up in the morning. They were super helpful.
As I set up my tent, a special event was about to take place: The opening game of the NFL season. I have been a long-time Chiefs fan and they were playing the Patriots this evening. I really love sports. One of the first things I did when I started working after college was establish a “Championship Fund,” setting aside enough money to attend a Chiefs Super Bowl or a Huskers National Championship game (though a flight from South America was not included in this calculation). My fandom will have to slip a little this year, but I want to follow along as much as I can.
There was spotty wifi in the campground. After setting up my tent, I decided to move Annie around so that I could plug in an extension cord to power my laptop. Right before pushing her around, I noticed I was a little light headed. I had not eaten much all day. But no, worries, I’ve pushed Annie around thousands of times.
I don’t know how it happened, but:
Annie’s frunk was open when she got away from me. The sound of plastic breaking seemed to pierce my very soul. What had I done?!
Before I could answer that question, a difficult task still remained. With the way Annie fell, I was going to have a hard time righting her. The curb weight of the NC700X is 474 pounds. I’m not sure the exact weight of all of my luggage, but I would guess at least 150 lbs. This means I have around 600 lbs. to hoist each time she falls. Because the weight pivots around the wheels, it is not the same as deadlifting or squatting this much weight, but it is still a lot.
With the position of the tree, I could only use the handlebars to lift. This put me at a biomechanical disadvantage. I heaved multiple times until I finally reached enough clearance to get my knee underneath for extra leverage. Finally, she was standing.
The damage was difficult to diagnose in the dark. The frunk lid was still attached but it did not close. I would have to put it out of my mind for now and take a closer look in the morning.
I ate some supper and followed the play by play of the game. At halftime it was already 10:30, so I decided to turn in. I knew that I would have the additional task of repairs to take care of in the morning and needed to make full use of the daylight. Call me a bad fan all you like. 😛
Friday, September 8th
As soon as my alarm went off I checked the score of the Chiefs game. A 42-27 win warmed me up a little.
It was chilly in the morning, so I decided to begin my day with a shower. Unfortunately, I only had a single quarter to put in the coin-op machine. I would have to be swift. I was not swift enough. There was still a little trickle coming out of the head which was enough to wash most of the suds off of me.
Annie looked a little sad, her right hand guard hanging off in addition to the frunk damage.
I was encouraged upon further examination. There was not substantial damage to the plastic, only a few pieces were chipped off. I thought I could fix it. I unmounted the seat and frunk lid until I had access to the bracket on which the plastic mounts.
It was bent up, but it looked sturdy enough to absorb some blows from the back end of my hatchet. (The C-clamp was one of the last tools I packed, primarily to use as a makeshift oil filter wrench. I’ve actually used it numerous times.)
After some “aggressive negotiations” it was approximately in the correct shape. I remounted the lid, pushed it down, then….*CLICK*. It locked neatly into place. Disaster averted! Re-aligning the hand guard took a bit of time, but I eventually got that sorted too.
Though it was a successful morning, I did not leave the campground until around 11am. I had consumed a lot of daylight. The staff in the campground office were really friendly and invited me to visit them again on my way back through. The cost was $39 CAD (about $31 US). Not too bad. My lodging expenses for the trip have now finally eclipsed the $100 mark. 😦
(Unless you deduct the $50 the generous owners of the campground in Baraboo gave me. Then I am still under.) 🙂
The goal for the day was to get set up to take the road up to Labrador the next day. Baie-Comeau would be the ideal spot, but I wasn’t sure I could make it that far. I suppose I should mention that I didn’t need to ride the road up to Labrador. The same train I was taking to Schefferville begins its route in Sept-Iles (Seven Islands), a city on the St. Lawrence. But even though I can’t get Annie to Schefferville, I felt obligated to at least ride as far as possible.
I rode on, crossing the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City. The St. Lawrence is really a sight. It is a river for awhile, but at some point it has to be considered a bay or an inlet or something like that (remember I’m from Nebraska, I don’t know much about coastal waterways). The bridge at Quebec City is the last one. Any further west, a ferry is the only option.
I was running behind so I made few stops. There was one special one though. My new friend George, the one who arranged my Labrador connections, suggested that I stop at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. It was a beautiful sight, providing a stark contrast to my hastily consumed lunch.
The scenery continued to impress as I rolled along. Though, predictably, some ominous rain clouds began to roll in. I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating rain. If one can get suited up in rain gear before any moisture hits, it is a real bonus. I watch for moisture being carried into the tire tracks of the oncoming lane as well as the wipers of the cars I meet. I was suited up in plenty of time.
Still, five days in Canada, five days with rain.
I reached the Saguenay River and had my first ferry ride of the trip. It was a smooth process and completely free. Two ferries were running back and forth. I would guess that each of them had the capacity to carry 30-40 vehicles. I was ushered into a position and we departed soon. All of the Quebecois surrounding me acted like this was no big deal, but I took a bunch of pictures and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was undoubtedly grinning like an idiot. I never strayed too far from Annie, wanting to be present to steady her in case we crossed rough waters.
I would be interested to see the calculations of the economics that make a ferry more cost effective than building a bridge. It seems like there is ample traffic here.
Daylight was waning, so it was time to think about finding a place for the night. I stopped at McDonald’s to grab a bite and use the wifi. I couldn’t translate any of the items on the value menu (my usual selections) so I just ordered a “nombre un trio” (number one combo meal). I googled the sunset time and decided that I had better hustle up to find a place.
I made the same deal with myself as the previous night: Search for a free spot for 30 min, then go pay for a campsite. I headed inland for a few miles before pulling off on a little trail next to a creek. It wasn’t perfect, the ground being full of dips and ridges, but it would work.
Oooooffff. Over 2,000 words just on the part one. No wonder I am a little behind on the blog. Tune in next time to see if I slip on the “snail snot” on Rte. 389-Nord!
Real time update: FINALLY have some wifi at a Tim Horton’s in New Brunswick. I’m on my way to Nova Scotia to visit the Hank Snow museum (the original singer of the Americas version of “I’ve Been Everywhere”). Say a prayer for my rear tire, I’m going to be running it a little longer than I would prefer. No, I am not sharing my Honey Cruller Timbits. Don’t even ask.