Bike Ride - Summer 2004:
Quebec/Bas St. Laurent/Matapedia
& New Brunwick
Day Nine

Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2006

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Quebec/Bas St. Laurent/Matapedia
& New Brunwick
Day Nine: Sainte-Flavie to Amqui
Sunday, August 8, 2004

I was up at 06:00 and was out of the house, to get my bike out of the garage, by 07:00. I brought all my bags down the stairs and stacked them on the porch, then repacked my bike as the hour approached for breakfast. Sheryl and I came into the breakfast room at 07:30. As had been the case the previous morning, the host and his wife pretty well hid themselves in the kitchen. Each set of guests sat at their own tiny tables, so there was little interaction between us. Breakfast was very nice, however.

After Sheryl bade me on my way at 08:30, I rode the few remaining blocks to the centre of Sainte-Flavie. I passed the motel and seaside restaurant of the 1998 visit and came to the pier I had walked out on at the time. I rode my bike out to the end of the pier, where the view back westward along the coastline was well lit by the morning sun, and the tide was high. There was enough wind to give the water its traditional wavelike surface.

I stopped into a depanneur, to buy some supplies, and then rode on to my personal 'historic corner'. Here Route 132 coming from Mont-Joli and the Gaspé's South Shore meets Route 132 heading eastward along the North Shore shoreline, thus closing the 'loop’. Twin road signs for Route 132 East point both straight-ahead and to the right. It was here that I had my moment of doubt back in 1992. I continued eastward a bit, to find the roadside 'halte' where I had spent the night at the end of my 1992 ride, before driving south for the very first time.

At length, at 09:00, I returned to the crossroads and started climbing up the hill towards Mont-Joli, the railway town a few kilometers inland. I knew what was coming ahead of me and was prepared for a severe climb. I knew that I would have to climb over the spine of the Gaspé Peninsula. I remembered my long, freewheeling downhill ride from Mont Joli to Sainte-Flavie back in 1992. To my pleasant surprise, the climb upward was not as bad as I would have imagined. I guess my muscles had toned over the years, thanks-be-to-God.

There was one short, sharp climb of a hundred feet or so, to climb up the inland ridge which ran along the entire coastline. Then the slope became relatively more gradual, though still generally steep. After the first hill, I was already high enough to see the vast expanse of the blue St. Lawrence estuary stretched out behind me. As I climbed up further, I passed by the airport of Mont-Joli on my left. Once past the airport, the expanse of blue behind me had taken on a quite distant air.

Since I was riding so slowly, the climb seemed long, but was only 20 minutes later, at 09:20, that I came to the left-hand turn-off where the main street of Mont-Joli separated from the Route 132 bypass. Along the quieter ‘rue principale’ of the town, I climbed through familiar stretches. Soon I came to the familiar railway underpass.

I took a few minutes detour to explore the old train station, the station where I had arrived in the middle of the night way back in 1992. I remembered the transitory hustle and bustle as the train had arrived and the box containing my bike was offloaded. I remembered my midnight walk up the road to the town hall and police station to recover my van and then my return to a deserted platform, the train having moved on.

The climb up through Mont-Joli was pretty severe. Past the church, past the old town hall, and finally to the point where 'rue principale ' once again met the Route 132 detour did I slowly ride. I made one quick stop along the way, at a local depanneur, to pick up an extra bottle of water for the climb ahead.

From the junction of 'rue principale' and Route 132, I could see far off to the west the civic building atop a hill that I had seen the previous day, off in the distance to the east from the point at Ste. Luce.

I was back onto Route 132, having traversed Mont-Joli, at 09:40. The highway had become quite a narrow road, and there was no shoulder. Yet another sharp climb brought me to the hamlet of St. Joseph, an appendage of Mont-Joli, but with its own distinctive church. I reached St. Joseph by 10:00.

Not too far past the hamlet, while the church spire of St. Joseph was still near and that of Mont-Joli no more than a distant white object, I caught my last vista of the blue waters of the Saint-Lawrence. I had reached the crest of the hill. Almost immediately began a long, rapid descent into the valley of the Métis River, the very river that runs past the 'jardins de Métis'. At first my descent was straight, but it soon turned to the left, to follow along the valley. I came upon the village of Sainte-Angèle.

I reached the centre of Sainte-Angèle at 10:30, having left the main road to ride through the older section of town. I came up the sign of some local dispute between the residents and the 'Caisse Populiare'. I stopped to gather photos of the signs and placards demanding that the ‘caisse’ rehire the local kids it had fired. They were just kids and did not really mean to steal the money. I imagine there was quite a story there!

Leaving Sainte-Angèle at 10:40, I rejoined Route 132, which soon began a serious, no nonsense climb out of the valley. The roadsign indicated that Saint-Moïse was 17km ahead. It would take me to 11:15 (35 minutes) to reach what I first thought was the crest of the hill. The short, but welcome descent was misleading. There followed yet another, and even longer climb. The real crest, the divide, was reached at 11:30.

I came to the 'corners', 'le coin Saint-Jean', at 11:35. It was the true crest of the hill. A side road led off to the town of 'Redempteur'. There was minor road construction at this point, the highway partly blocked by orange cones. The road sign indicated that Sainte-Flavie was now 24km behind me.

There were clear signs that I had traversed the crest of the hill, yet I would face more uphill sections on the road ahead. At 11:40, I passed a sign indicating that Saint-Moïse was still 10km ahead and realized that, in one whole hour of climbing, I had only advanced 7km.

I came to the Saint-Moïse town line at 11:55. The road at this point had a very loose, gravel shoulder and so I had to be careful to stay on the pavement. I could not allow myself to be spooked by the trucks. I called to check in with Sheryl. She was still back in Mont Joli, having spent the morning at the ‘halte’ in Sainte-Flavie picking rose pedals.

I reached Saint-Moïse proper at 12:30 and immediately left the main road to ride through the town in the hope of finding a nice shaded park where I might have my lunch. Alas, no such park was to be found in the tiny hamlet, nestled slightly below the main road. I ended up having my lunch of cream cheese, crackers and wine in the shade of the town church, on the steps, overlooking the 'four corners'. Lunch was but a 10-minute affair. I was on my way again at 12:40.

The old 'rue principale' continued along for some time, just below the main road, before finally regaining Route 132. I came back on the main road at 13:00 and noted the road sign indicating Sayabec to be 11km distant and Amqui, the day’s destination, to be 36.

When I reached the Sayabec town line at 13:15, I found myself at the entrance to a vast valley. Looking out, I could see distant mountains and smoke rising from a mill far away. . I began the descent. Down, down, down, and down I coasted. Any doubts that I had crossed over the spine of the Gaspé were fully dispelled. At 13:25, I came to a railway crossing and saw the clear signs of the former roadway.

I finally reached the built-up section of Sayabec at 13:40. On the way into town, I passed the motel where Sheryl and I had stayed in 1994. It was now closed. I stopped a bit further on for an iced cream. The main street led past the obligatory town church before descending to the shoreline of Lake Matapedia. I stopped at a roadside park by the lake for some photos and also caught some shots of the valley's principal industry, a pulp & paper mill spewing forth a plume of white steam visible for miles around. A sign indicated that 'Val Brillant' was 9km distant.

It would be 14:35 when I reached the town of Val Brillant. I would stop again at 14:50 at another ‘halte’ along the lake. In clocking my my speed, it would appear that I was in the range of 18km per hour. The main street of Val Brillant led through the town itself, along the lakeshore and below the main road. I tried to call Sheryl at 15:00, but there was no service on the cell.

At 15:10 I was slogging forward in climbing mode as the highway rose through a cutaway, splitting a ridge which ran alongside the lake. A sign indicated that Amqui remained 11km away. I would stop again at 15:25, to climb on foot to the top of the cutaway in order to take some more photos while looking back northwards along the lake.

I reached the Amqui line at 15:35. The road was descending the ridge and coming back around into the valley. Not much further along was the B&B for the evening, a huge farming complex out in the middle of the fields. It was the same fancy B&B where we tried to stay in 1984, only to find it full. I reached the B&B at 15:45.

I went in to register, expecting then to ride on into Amqui and explore the town. I told the innkeeper to advise Sheryl, upon her arrival, that I would be back at 17:00. Then Sheryl arrived right behind me, so the plans changed.

I stowed the bike in the garage and ferried the gear up to our room. Then Sheryl and I drove on into town, where we stopped briefly at the dollar store in a tiny mall, miraculously still open. Sheryl was hunting for something. While she was in the store, I take a short walk and caught some photos of the nascent Matapedia River, exiting from the lake. We took a short "drive-about" before finally following the road along the north shore of the River & Lake Matapedia, to arrive at the restaurant our innkeeper had suggested, Restaurant La Romance. It was a beautiful setting, with big bay windows looking out on Lake Matapedia.

Lake Matapedia ends at Amqui, where it become the Matapedia River. At the very beginning of the river is an old, covered bridge. We would end up returning across that bridge.

The restaurant overlooked the lake. When we arrived it wass nearly empty and we get a prime table, looking out over the water. As we eat, the place began to fill up, until it was quite crowded upon our exit. The restaurant was a pretty fancy establishment. For most of the locals, I am sure it was their big night out.

When we returned to the B&B, Sheryl had to retire. She suddenly felt very tired. She was sad as she had planned accompany me on a walk down through the fields to the lakeshore. I followed this mile-long walk down through the corn fields and across the railroad tracks, to a tiny, private beach belonging to the B&B. Thence, I could see across the narrowing lake to the restaurant where we had eaten, now lit by the yellow hue of the setting sun. Climbing back up the hill, I could see the disturbed clouds of the horizon; it did not bode well.

Sheryl was fast asleep by the time I got back up to the house. I still had one remaining task, though. With my Quebec Tour Guide, I had made reservations as far ahead as I had been able, but now we were going into New Brunswick. I had not yet made a reservation for the following night. The innkeepers were kind enough to provide me with a New Brunswick tourist guide and I was able to reserve a room for the next night at a 'tourist home' in Cambellton, NB: Au Petit Beau Reves.

Then I retired.

On to Day 10

Prepared by Roger Kenner
January, 2006; lite-version: June, 2006