Sunday, December 7, 2014

Summer of '79 - Part 3

I'll mention it one last time, without the ability to review the Journal my memories of proceeding around this SE Quebec peninsula are a bit thin though there are a few things I remember very clearly.  This photo of my GS850 Suzuki on the shoulder along Hwy 132 brings back not only images but fragrances as well.  It wasn't the smell of flowers that I remember most, a fact reinforced when I view this image.  What comes to mind were the many roadside stands/tables that had baked goods (Fresh Bread) and early season produce for sale.  Many such stands were scattered all along that south shore of the St. Lawrence.

My poor man's diet had been consisting of peanut butter, soup, tuna, oatmeal, tea, some fruit off and on with Enriched Hamburger Buns (more tolerant of saddlebag packing) often the common denominator tying everything together.  For whatever reason, there was one particular small stand where I actually pulled over and stopped, a young woman the in-charge proprietor. The very first thing I noticed, honest, were the light dish towels that covered those loaves (Fresh Bread) protecting that unbelievable freshness.  The loaves were not only warm, they SMELLED warm and it was intoxicating though the breads weren't the only intoxicating thing at that stand.

Her English was fine and I could have spent a lot more time there shopping than I did.  2 loaves (Fresh Bread), some jam and I remember her laughing at my struggling to find carrying space for my goods.  If I'd have had room for more, I'd have bought more.

One of my camping stops must have been near Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and based on these two photos, I'm guessing that I took Hwy 299 away from the coast in to Parc national de la Gaspesie for an afternoon/evening ride.  Seems that I now remember considering riding all of the way across out to the coast but it was too far and I was feeling too lazy.  I climbed up into the park and then turned back north.

Possibly Hwy 197 from my stop that night at Riviere-au-Renard??  If anyone knows, please correct me!

Along the way.....

Something I recall very well (a story I've told many times without one single detail embellished) was the sign language 'event' I used to communicate with a camp-mate Quebecois couple. There appeared to be, quite by accident though logically, various campers making our way slowly around the Gaspe peninsula.  The same vehicles for the most part with Quebec license plates that seemed to show up in camp each evening, all of us making the same stops on our clockwise migration around the point.  No matter our various stops, traveling speeds, etc. the same familiar faces and vehicles were showing up each evening in the campsites.  I deduced and later had it for the most part confirmed that these folks from the more central part of the Province were using a week to casually work their way up and around the south shore of Fleuve Saint Laurent.

In whatever camp it was that I stayed at that evening near Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, the following morning had me casually but with purpose packing up to make a fresh morning start for my next stop, Forillon National Park out on the eastern tip of the Gaspe.  The evening before I had said a friendly "hello" to my neighbors, probably a 30-something couple from Quebec City.  My French was non-existent and his English was quite broken but easy enough to understand for our brief conversation.  This was the 2nd evening that we just happened to be in adjacent campsites and at least the 3rd evening in the same campground.  In other words, we were at least a little familiar with each other even if we weren't holding conversations deep into the night.

That morning, I made my tea, 'cooked' my oatmeal, enjoyed my raisins or possibly even a luxurious banana.  Experience had me making very few false, wasted moves, not so much because there was a reason to hurry but rather simply efficiency by repetition.  Breakfast took only minutes, cleanup a fraction of that.  Sleeping bag stuffed into a sack and then stuffed again into the Suzuki's saddlebag.  Tent down, packed, placed in the once-bright orange duffel bag.  Before donning my Belstaff jacket and helmet, I took an easy couple of minutes to sit on the picnic table to enjoy one of my granola bar treats before getting back out on the road.

I looked next door and saw that my neighbor was looking over at me, an exaggerated frown on his face, almost pantomime-like.  With outstretched hands and two index fingers pointing directly at me, he pointed at where my tent had been, put his hands together and tipped his head into them (Doug sleeping??..).  His head went up, he pointed at my picnic table, used more sign language to hint at my drinking tea, then eating my oatmeal.  He turned sideways to me, made motions with his hands almost as if making a snowman's head (packing my sleeping bag??) and then turned facing the other way, sideways to me and made a bigger snowman's trunk (folding the tent??).  Both of these snowman creatings took seconds and didn't convey anything frantic, rather efficient use of effort.

My smile was growing but he wasn't done yet.  At that point he donned an imaginary helmet and then an imaginary jacket.  Anyone, anywhere would have recognized his hand motion of twisting that right hand grip, his head even moving back to simulate real live motion as (he) I accelerated away.

An index finger went to where his make believe watch would have been and even from 50 yards away, I counted about 22 small minutes on his wrist watch.

Suddenly he took a big step back, his arms flew out to the extent of his wingspan and he faced their campsite.  He made a huge sweep of his arms, lock to lock and looked over at me to make sure I was getting the full effect.  Honestly, their campsite had stuff everywhere, quite possibly the number of nights in their history of camping could have been counted almost twice on one hand, certainly on two based on what I'd witnessed.  He 'signed' his partner's blow drying her hair; we naturally both looked over at whatever it was that she was doing (I'd already had practice at that). Pointing at their campstove, he went on to cook what may very well have been a 7 course the air.

By this time I was laughing hard enough to struggle looking through my tears so as not to miss any details of the show and that's when the climax came.  Pointing once again at the missing watch on his wrist, he made 4 or 5 huge sweeps of the hands.  Both hands flew up above his head, the arms came down and his head was shaking slowly back and forth, his chin firmly on his chest. 

He looked over at me with a big smile and then a shrug of his shoulders, the "whadda ya gonna do" international symbol of love.  I stood up, clapped and gave him a salute.  He turned back to his tasks and then after I made my way around the loop on my way out, I looked over, he waved with a big smile.

With a few stops mixed in, my next campsite would be at Forillon National Park.

One of those orange tents, in the tenting area is mine far, far below......this was a hike worth making.

In the next campsite to mine, 4 members of the Quebec City Police Force arrived late that afternoon.  Laurier in the white T-shirt was the most senior and was this small group's unofficial leader. His English was the very best, the result of his years in the Merchant Marine and world travel.  Pierre is helping get the bungees in place, his English the poorest of the group......"more beer, better English" he said with a big smile and that part I completely understood.  I just don't remember the 3rd member of the group but I remember Ivan very well.  He was young, much younger than I and his English was actually quite good, watching Bonanza was given credit for that, something I heard more than once while traveling in Quebec.  I listened and learned a great deal about life in a bilingual police department from those guys as we covered numerous topics together.

The next evening the guys kindly invited me to join them for dinner.  Ivan's parents were on Holiday, staying in the town of Gaspe and it was their extremely kind offer to host dinner for Ivan and his friends.  Feeling very much like a free-loader, I used every excuse I could think of, finally only agreeing to join them if they'd let me pay my way.  I knew this meal was going to cost more than I'd normally spend on a week or more of food.  Of course that didn't happen; my offer of paying for the wine, the tip, the ____ was absolutely refused.  Laurier had told me and had great fun doing so, "you Americans eat to live.  We French, live to eat."  I hadn't previously nor have I since then spent 3 hours, eating and drinking my way through an 8 course meal.  Ivan's parents were incredible and gracious beyond belief, they especially good to the long haired, bearded American.

We riders had a ~40km ride back to camp at Forillon after our extensive dinner, which I'm confidently guessing must have been after midnight.  I don't remember where I was in the lineup on the ride back but I do know Ivan was behind me.  The road hugged the coastline and there were numerous corners, promoting an overly aggressive (do not do this) ride back to camp.  Ivan was very excited when we shut the machines down back in our campsites.  He scurried over and went around behind my Suzuki and pointed down at the rear lights on my saddlebags.  Making an arched triangle with his index fingers and thumbs, he tipped right and left, then right and left again, putting his whole body into it.  "Beautiful, just beautiful" he was saying, referring to our rather sporting ride in the dark and his following the triad of lights that my 850 made as we hugged those hard rights and lefts along the coast.  Thinking back, the lean of my 3 lights in back no doubt gave him some warning of what was coming up next.

The above photo was taken when we were all ready to break camp the next morning.  Ivan and the other guy's photo was taken but it was so overexposed (end of the roll) as to make it worthless.  The guys were headed back to work in the city and I would be continuing my way around the coast but not for another day or so.  Ivan and I kept up correspondence for a few years, into the early 80's.  His last letter to me mentioned a special girl, a fiance......and after that the letters stopped. :)

Out at the point....

A famous place that was familiar even before my Maritime trip planning had begun, here at higher tide.  Perce.....le Rocher.

Here at lower tide......

Another view, this from Le Roche looking back......

Time on the docks, watching nets being mended.

End of a summer day in Perce.......

Soon I'd be leaving Quebec though not for the last time.  New Brunswick was next and before long, what almost seemed like a summer filled with ferry rides.


  1. Very cool, thanks for posting these historical, pre-Adv ride reports.

    1. Thanks Richard, I'm having big fun taking these trips again. A nice amount of map time, trying to fill in some blanks.

  2. One of the best parts of traveling... the people you meet, and the impression they make.

    Traveling back then seemed to be an even greater adventure than it is now. Thanks, Coop for taking the time writing this down, scanning all the old pics and sharing your stories with us.

    1. Sonja, the very richest part of traveling by far. There are so many places I've yet to go but as I'm going through that trip, it's easy to imagine mixing in some new stops in with the old.....some day.

  3. I am really enjoying the reminiscing posts. It is nice to look back at those trips from years gone by.

    I enjoyed your friendly neighbor pantomime. Somehow I'm thinking he was wishing he could pack up a little quicker.

    Good times.

    1. Thanks Brandy, it's been enjoyable digging those days up again. I'm pretty sure that was the message from my be just a bit more fancy free and yet, we managed to end up each day in the same place so their method couldn't have been too poor.

  4. Coop, I'm loving your Eastern Adventure recount. It's funny how some memories remain so clear they could have been says it was a journey worth taking. Sometimes, it's worth going back again.

    1. I've captioned some of these photos before but never really had the opportunity to better explain with more than a phrase or short sentence. You are absolutely correct. Some of the hazy memories have become clear, some that were on the edge of being gone have brightened. It was the right time and the right place when I visited before and I'm convinced that it would be very rewarding to return.

      Fast friendships were made and I wasn't even really very good at them back then. Traveling pushes those skills to the forefront and at least for me, just possibly the best part of "being away." Comfortably sure there's been improvement in the years that have followed.

      More of those old acquaintances will be mentioned.