27-29 Aug Chambly
30 Aug Sutton
31 Aug Quebec City
1-2 Sep Tadoussac
3 Sep Rimouski
4 Sep Sainte-Anne-des-Monts
5 Sep Rivière-au-Renard
6-8 Sep Percé
9 Sep Bonaventure
10 Sep Gîte du Mont-Albert
11 Sep Carleton-sur-mer
12 Sep Rimouski
13 Sep St-Jean-Port-Joli
14 Sep Quebec City
begins 30 Sep
Tuesday 27 August 2019--A while back, one of my younger Facebook
friends, impatient for one of life's milestones, expressed a desire for the
intervening time to pass more quickly. We've all done this, saying "I can't wait for
Claudia's wedding" or "I wish Christmas would hurry up and get here" or "My
21st birthday can't come soon enough." I don't remember what it was she was so
anxiously awaiting...it doesn't really matter. For some reason, I felt moved to
advise her, "Haley, never wish away a day of your life." I suppose I was talking to
myself more than to her. Life's events seem to approach us so slowly, like a
landmark by the highway in the distance, and then suddenly zip past us so fast
that we can barely get a look at them. We can't speed up or slow down time,
really, but we need to remind ourselves to pull over, metaphorically, and take in
the low afternoon light, the buzzing of the insects, the smell of autumn in the air.
Or whatever. We need to do this at ordinary times as well as at the landmarks.
The moments all come in their own time, pass too quickly, and are gone forever.
Me dear old mum left us this past Mothers' Day. I was in Scotland when my father died, and I was in Scotland last year when Mom went into the nursing home. I have a bad habit of skipping out on these things. But I was home for this, as was my brother. I told Mom I loved her before she slipped away, something I had not done enough of in my sixty-five years. Life's final milestone did not come too quickly; she was ready, and had been for some time. She was ninety-three.
Seventeen days ago, I drove my last shift on the bus. I am technically on vacation until the first of October, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm retired. I've always liked my job. Driving a bus is the only thing I've ever been able to stick with--the Monday-to-Friday 9-to-5 thing always made me anxious. But my company no longer does much of the kind of touring work that I really enjoyed, and lately I've found myself more and more often crawling in New York or Boston traffic. I'm fed up with traffic. Like my young friend Haley, I have probably been looking forward to this passage a little too keenly, but I honestly feel that the change has come at just the right time. I'm more than ready for this.
And so, everything is different. And yet, that is how it always is: everything is different, every year, every day, every moment. Same as it ever was.
This is my third big Canadian trip of the North Atlantic Arc era, and my second with Marc, mon vieux ami de la ville de Québec. We've decided on a tour of the Gaspé Peninsula. Marc, a lifelong resident of Québec, has never been there. I made a cursory circuit of La Gaspésie thirty years or so ago...I don't remember the exact year. I do remember snapping the clutch cable on my motorcycle just as I rolled into a motel on the Québec side of the bridge from Campbellton, New Brunswick, and riding clutchless fifty miles to a Kawasaki shop in New Richmond the next day. Having spent nearly all of my cash on repairs, I rode with empty wallet, gas tank, and stomach into the town of Gaspé, where stood the one ATM in the entire region that I could use. I camped in Forillon National Park, and showed up an hour early for a whale watch the next day--I'd forgotten to change my watch from Atlantic Time when I crossed the border from New Brunswick. How primitive travel was in those days.
As I did four years ago, I'm starting this trip with a few nights in Chambly, in the Montérégie region just east of Montreal. When I stayed in 2015, I somehow missed Bedondaine & Bedons Ronds, the local microbrasserie. There is now a second, Délires et Délices, in the village, so a do-over is especially welcome. I drive north from my home in Massachusetts on I-91, exiting at Orleans in northern Vermont. From there, I wend my way northwest to the town (if you can call it that) of East Richford. The unpaved East Richford Slide Road actually dips briefly over the Canadian border, which neatly bisects the little town cemetery. It's hard to tell for sure on a satellite view, but there might be a couple of residents with one elbow in each country. Anomalies like this, where the border fence defers to a longstanding reality on the ground rather than to the strict legality of a line on the map, are not terribly common, but there are a few scattered around the more remote parts of northern New England.
Google street view shows a functioning general store in what I suppose is the center of East Richford, but the photo was taken in 2008. I find the place closed, the gas pumps long since removed. Pass under a railroad track, part of a peculiar (and I assume defunct) line that follows the S-curve of the Missisquoi River across the border and back and across again. Turn up the road and cross the river itself, right where the border interesects it, and pull up in front of the smallest and most obscure outpost of Canadian customs I have ever seen. Whenever I drove a bus across, I was obliged to use one of the ports of entry on major highways. When I'm traveling for pleasure, I like to use small, out-of-the- way crossings. I've hit the jackpot here. Customs agents in these places usually want to know why I'm using that crossing, and, having little else to do, often search my car. The one here wants to know why I'm going to Chambly, rather than, say, Montréal. The question takes me by surprise, and I babble something that I'm sure sounds unconvincing. He lets me go, anyway, unsearched.
My plan is to turn west toward Frelighsburg, then north to visit the microbrasserie in Dunham before proceeding to Chambly, but the road west is closed, and I'm forced to make a wide detour around the long ridge of the Sutton Range, through Mansonville and Knowlton. Rather than Dunham, I have my pint and a burger at Brouemont, a microbrasserie in the ski resort town of Bromont, at the foot of Mont Brome. From there, it's about 45 minutes to Chambly, most of that spent on the uninteresting Autoroute 10.
My Airbnb is in a handsome heritage house across the street from the Chambly Basin, a few minutes' walk to Délires et Délices. It's a pleasant evening, and I take my pint on the terrasse, in t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. It's quiet there on a Tuesday night, and at Bedondaine & Bedons Ronds, also.