The St Lawrence river bisects the north and south parts of Quebec, and the Laurentide Mountains were a wavy blue silhouette, comfortably on the other side to where we were riding.
But the horizon on our side began to bulge ominously as we approached the Appalachians. At first occasional glimpses of foothills, then slow climbs to altitudes that hinted at what the range is capable of, then potentially enormous climbs in the following couple of days (none of us had looked at elevation profiles or contour lines, so we didn’t know what to expect).
In the end there were no enormous climbs. Just winding roads through forest and alongside river that brought to mind roads we’d ridden thousands of miles ago.
Kristian and I entered Ontario on July 14th, and have been riding in Ontario and Quebec since. Arriving in New Brunswick capped off 6 weeks in just 2 provinces. For comparison, we ticked of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in just shy of 4 weeks, and have just shy of 3 to ride New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland
The upcoming four promise something completely different to the Canada we’ve seen so far: we’ve left behind ice-capped mountains, long flat prairies, forested and undulating lake shores, imposing escarpments, and the extended urban sprawl approaching the biggest cities we’ll see. The stereotype-heavy mental image I’ve built of the Maritimes involves sou’westers, galoches, rickety painted rowboats, flagons of ale, bar room brawls and seagulls.
I spoke to a lady on the section of road leading us from Quebec to New Brunswick. She paused for breath (or maybe dramatic effect) after saying “this road could be anywhere in…”
My mind filled the gap with “British Columbia”, but she actually said “the Maritimes” which was surprising. Trees feature somewhere in my mental image, but for some reason I’d confined thick forests to the Canada west of these provinces.
So far New Brunswick, the first Maritime province, has been sleepy and mellow, and populated by uniformly pleasant people. The aesthetic and atmosphere reminds me slightly of the Isle of Wight.
We’ve ridden through towns adorned with Acadian flags, another French Canadian community with as much pride as the Quebecois – although seemingly slightly more subdued. Lobster traps, stylised lighthouses and nautically themed gnomes and figurines dot the province, creating an aesthetic satisfactorily close to the stereotypical one I’d imagined.
Five of our seven nights here have been spent on or very near to the sea, with three nights spent on our own secluded sections of beach. Conversations about our ride have felt more maritime (“We’ve ridden from Vancouver”, “whew! Is that right? Eat sardines!”). The weather is getting colder. Leaves are turning yellow on the trees.
Autumn is approaching to end the summer of our ride.