Québec: Postcards From the Province

Québec: Postcards From the Province
Big trips are curious things–miles and miles of road interrupted by moments of poignancy and snippets of time that persist in the mind as the years march on. “Remember that time…?” we say to ourselves and our riding partners. “You should have been there,” we say to others. Photos help, as do words, to create postcards for the soul–snapshots that help us relive those memorable moments.

Into the Woods

The old walls of Québec City are quickly replaced by steeply rolling countryside. The road assaults the hills head on, pointing arrow straight toward the sky one moment before plunging downward the next. It feels at times like a giant roller coaster, especially near the crest of hills where all I see is sky and trees and … the road leading directly into the Gulf of St. Lawrence! That moment of “What the fjord!” is repeated several times before dropping into the ferry town of Saint-Siméon. I stop to feel the wind, the vastness of the gulf, and eat a chicken sandwich. After lunch, I turn inland.

A quiet, wooded road follows the crystalline Petit-Saguenay River. This little river patiently carved the walls of this fjord over thousands of years. As it empties into the bigger Saguenay River, the deep blue water flows into a stunning panorama framed by steep, forested mountains. It doesn’t look like a river here at all, and it feels more like an alpine lake. There’s a serenity and calmness at this not-so-petite place as a handful of tourists wander about in mute admiration.

On the other side of the broad-shouldered Saguenay, steady breezes and waves have created a small beach. From this sandy point, kitesurfers launch to skim the whitecaps, their slick moves set against the dramatic backdrop of the river and mountains. Inspired by their power and grace (or perhaps more by a grumbling stomach and fading sun), I “surf” all the way to Tadoussac, carving smooth esses into the twisting, rolling tarmac. The sun is low and the woods are getting dark.

Tadoussac, sitting in a pretty bay, is normally a sleepy vacation town. This weekend it is buzzing with a big music festival. Music fans, young and old, wander the streets of this picturesque hamlet heading from one venue to another. A crowd gathers on the boardwalk to listen to a band playing outside. A stand-up bass, a couple of fiddles, a banjo, a mandolin, and a guitar play some down-home music. Just my luck, they’re singing in English (the lead singer is from New Orleans). A young couple dances as others in the circle tap their feet and bop their heads in time. I enjoy the music for a spell before catching a late dinner.