The title is a play on the John Candy movie “Wagons East”. I figure with a Canadian-themed trip, you might as well pay homage to one of Canada’s funniest actors that unfortunately left us way too soon.
I wanted to start the latest trip with a re-vamp of the site. What do you think? Any and all comments are welcome. And now without further delay…
We began the next leg of our tour of national parks on a grey and raining day. Or rather, it would have been grey had the sun been up. Which it wasn’t. It was that early when we left home. The dogs knew something was up because the night before I had been making umpteen trips to the car to load it up. They all stood by the door even when I went to bed but I’m pretty sure they figured it out the next morning as they seemed more interested with the car than their food. Except Leo. He always puts food first.
We left home at 5:37 am. The Standard Road Trip Rules would apply with one small exception: we had a lot of ground to cover so there was going to be more highway driving than I would normally do but we had to maximize the time available. The road trip bottle would be “The Liquormen”. It’s the Trailer Park Boys whisky. I had to do it.
The goal was to visit as many national parks on the east coast as possible. There would be a few that we would not be able to visit: Torngat Mountains in Labrador has no roads so that’s a bit of a problem when on a road trip. Also in Labrador, Mealy Mountains does have road access but it would take too much time just to get there. As much as I want to visit Newfoundland, the logistics are a bit difficult since we would have to take a ferry across and dogs have to be left either in the car or in carriers which I’m not a fan of doing, so Gros Morne and Terra Nova are out. Then there’s Sable Island and Mingan Archipelago which don’t allow pets. There were still plenty of places to visit: Cape Breton Highlands, Forillon, Fundy, Kejimkujik, Kouchibouguac, La Mauricie, and Prince Edward Island.
We drove east through rain, traffic, torrential rain, hey rush hour traffic, and more rain. I had been in such a rush to get on the road that I did not prepare a cup of coffee and I was feeling it within an hour of heading out. Fortunately, Cobourg has The Human Bean and since it’s a quick hop off the 401, I made that my caffeination destination where I ordered a lovely double americano. I asked if there was a dog park nearby and even though the directions sounded easy, I missed it but then the rain started to come down again so it wasn’t too much of a loss.
The rain kept falling to the point where a drizzle felt like a break and I pulled over at one of the ONroute rest stops so the dogs could stretch their legs. There was a pet area on the side of the property but then a drainage ditch and a swathe of land on the other side called to us. We climbed over the rocks that made a perfect bridge and ooops I dropped the leashes. The dogs took advantage of my “clumsiness” and had a little romp. And Leo rolled because…it’s what he does. And then the rain began to fall harder. Oh well. Back in the car we went.
Once we got past Kingston, I started to feel a bit fuzzy again which was no doubt due to a lack of sleep and the inevitable caffeine crash. Even though I had eaten before we left home, I decided to grab a bite and set about to finding breakfast #2. No wait…brunch sounds better. A quick Yelp check sent me into Prescott and the Bridgeview Restaurant. It’s not fancy but it’s an old-school diner where the waitress calls everyone “Hun”. I had the breakfast special of a half order of french toast and sausage to go since the patio was a no-dog zone. I went down the road to get gas and since there was a good bit of grass and no rain, decided to eat in the parking lot. The french toast was good but the sausage was INCREDIBLE. The outer skin was crisp without being burned and it wasn’t greasy or fatty tasting. I wanted to go back there and refuse to leave until they told me the sausage secret but fortunately I was more concerned with getting further down the road than sausage bliss. And hey more rain.
We entered Quebec and here was the first of my dilemmas: since the goal was to visit as many national parks as we could and we would be passing one a few hours into Quebec, I had to decide whether to stop early or save it for later. I debated the options available and presented them all to the dogs and asked them for their input, but they were of little help. So I decided to save that park, La Mauricie, for the end of the trip since it was within a days drive if we weren’t able to stop on the way home. But then I started seeing signs for other national parks that weren’t listed on the Parks Canada website. This had me puzzled and confused for quite some time which kept the brain from zoning out. Always a good thing.
Finally FINALLY the rain cleared and we had sunny skies as we passed Quebec City.
Which now answered the question of where to stay since I am not a fan of setting up or taking down tents in the rain. But now that the rain had stopped, we would be able to forgo a hotel. I was watching for campgrounds when we found ourselves in La Pocatiere and as I was driving down the main road I saw a sign for St. Louis Pizza. Pizza? Don’t mind if I do.
Small confession here: my french is terrible and it’s embarrassing. I used to be able to at least have a simple conversation but after a whole bunch of years, well it ain’t pretty. I stepped up to the counter and was met by a barrage of words that left me paralyzed as I tried to sift though them. I could tell that the young girl noticed my stunned expression and switched almost seamlessly into english. I clumsily ordered a bacon pizza and went out to get the dogs to walk around as I waited the 20 minutes for the pizza. I decided at that point that I was going to force myself to use french as much as possible. I do live in a bilingual country after all.
La Pocatiere is built on a hill and where we were, we had a view over the tops of all the houses all the way to the river. It was a nice little town but it was ridiculously hot so our walk was a short one and we stayed in the shade as much as possible. I left the dogs outside to get their share of attention as I collected my box of pizza goodness before I loaded everyone into the car.
I had seen a sign for camping when we turned into town so I headed back to follow the signs. When I saw that we had a few more kilometres to go, I gave into my gnawing hunger and reached into the box on the seat next to me. It felt as though the middle of the pizza crust hadn’t fully cooked and I left most of it in the box. The crust had no structure to it at all and I would have had better luck eating if I had used a spoon to scoop up toppings. Don’t get me wrong: the flavour was excellent but you should be able to eat a good slice of pizza and not wear it all in your lap. I quickly gobbled down the last of that slice and had to check for pizza toppings down my shirt (there weren’t any).
Signs for Riviere Ouelle called to me and soon I was driving next to the St. Lawrence River. It was literally within spitting distance as I turned into the campground. I felt my heart sink a bit. All I could see were trailers packed in close to each other as far as the eye could see. I climbed out of the car and was partly hoping that there wouldn’t be any camping sites but also kind of hoping there were so that I could stop for the night.
I soon gave up on my attempts to speak french when I realized I couldn’t remember a single word that was camping-related. Apparently you can’t just put “le” in front of everything. There were campsites available and even though the young woman at the front offered to let me check the sites, I gallantly replied that it was just a place to sleep. She handed me a sheet of paper written entirely in french and said and they were under a boil water advisory. I was glad that I had filled all my water bottles earlier and didn’t point out that she was giving me a document that may as well have been written in cuneiform.
I took my map of the property which it turns out I didn’t need since the camping area was next to the office on a patch of grass sandwiched between the trailers and the road. My heart sank even further when I looked at the space. Sod had been laid down but it almost looked like it was stacked on top of the ground which left the area uneven. And I imagined all kinds of noise from the road. Somewhat dejected, I found the best spot that I could and had the dogs out on their tie-out while I set up our tent. I poured out their food and worked on more of my pizza. The middle was still pretty soggy so it was the fact that it was undercooked and not that I had started to eat it too soon, or before it hit the ideal “lipid transition stage” as a friend of mine calls it.
Since there was a large body of water right next to us, I took the dogs for a walk on the beach. I was expecting to see signs that said dogs had to be kept on leash or not allowed but there weren’t any. There were however signs that said not to pet the seals. Or at least that’s what I got from the pictures. A sign was posted that showed the towns on the opposite bank and in a bizarre coincidence, we ended up across from a town where I had run a 50 mile race almost exactly one year ago.
Once we had walked away from the other people enjoying the beach, I let the dogs run and the first thing they did was head for the water for a swim and drink. There were some large rocks and Leo channeled his inner mountain goat as he picked his way across them. Any excuse to climb and he’ll take it. Even though the St. Lawrence is a major waterway, there was none of the traffic that we had seen in the Mississippi River. I n fact, we hardly saw anything on the water other than a few birds and a tiny fraction of the garbage.
Once they all slowed down, we went to the campsite to relax for a little bit but even though we had been up early, I wasn’t quite ready for bed so we went back to the beach for another bit of exercise. It seems that most of the people in the area also enjoyed going to the beach and the benches that lined the road were full as everyone watched the sun set across the river.
It was almost like a theatre because once the sun dropped beneath the horizon, everyone slowly made their way back home. By this point I was tired and ready for my sleeping bag, which I had to kick Piper off of since she seems to think that she gets the special bed. Just this once, I think I may have been asleep before they were.