I got up and semi-hauled ass, aware that the end of the P'tit Train du Nord path would be ending today. It was over when I'd gone 50 miles. I stopped for a cheeseburger in a small town, and the girl waiting on me at the counter didn't speak any English, nor did the other employee who I presume was her mother and the owner of this pseudo home-based establishment. This didn't bother anyone at all. There were shy smiles and pointing and everyone had a ball.
Now I'm done with the path, and not particularly happy. I'm in Mt. Laurier where the path ends and I'm supposed to take 117 all the way to Val D'or. I got a Subway sub here last year and it turned my bowels to water. That was an intense few hours of dehydration and misery. Now I have a decision to make. Am I going to hitchhike while not speaking French? Possible - I've done it. Or will I sit around and take a bus at 11:45am tomorrow - landing me right in Matagami at the beginning of the James Bay Road. I'm not sure. I don't know if I feel like riding on the shoulder of a highway for 3 or 4 days. I actually do know: I'm not game. Decisions.
... later ...
Decisions are fucking easy. I think I had this worked out already when I was typing it earlier. I rode to just outside of the main part of Mt. Laurier - (or Mt. Sprawlier, as I saw it). I put out my thumb. $117 is a lot to pay for a bus - especially considering that there is literally one big road headed north here. This is not convoluted hitchhiking. Val D'or? Val D'or! Of course, dude.
Well I thumbed around for about an hour before getting hot and hungry. I got a 40 of some type of berry flavored concoction that slightly zaps your tongue, and a sandwich with no soul. I sat in a nice little park by the water, txt messaging Nielle and wondering what I would do next. Get drunk and/or lazy and stick around the area? Catch a bus tomorrow? I have magical ways of affording such luxuries. Credit. Or, should I try my luck with hitching a ride...
I only bother to stick my thumb out for likely candidates. Not for cars. Pickups, RVs, cars towing a boat, etc. But in a line of vehicles, there is always crossfire. So when I turned around and saw a tanker truck, it gave me pause. Did I summon this beast? It seemed likely. I went to the window and stepped up to talk. He spoke English. When you ask "do you speak English?" - the answer is almost always "a little bit." Sometimes this is true, sometimes the person speaks better English than I do - but it's always "a little bit." This guy spoke pretty well with only a few understandable gaps in vocabulary. After some rooting around for solutions, we got the bicycle hung up on a big hook that holds a hose to the front of the tank. Safe? Good enough for me. I am truly beginning to quit with giving a fuck. In earnest.
Driver was headed to Louvencourt, a good chunk of road in the right direction. After Grand Remous (big rapids?) he got a flat. I thought this might spoil my ride, but no. Driver needed to find a place for a guy to come and change the tire. It would be a couple hours. I didn't have anything scheduled, so I decided to wait. The best part was backing down the shoulder at 0mph for what I think was more than a half an hour, only to find that the pull-off spot was 2km forward - not backward.
The pull-off spot was next to Lac Rolland. I stopped here last year - riding my bicycle the whole way on this fucking road - when I ran out of energy. I barely able to make it up the hill. I sat here - where the tire was to be changed - and ate half a jar of peanut butter and a fruit cup. What I had.
At 7:21 I was looking at a small bee that got it's front end stuck in a crack in a wooden post, and had its back end sticking out moving around. I was trying to get the bee unstuck with a stiff piece of grass, and was a little embarrassed to be so focused on this that Driver walked up and saw what I was doing.
The Driver was a very clean cut gentleman who learned English driving trucks in the US for about 7 years. Very friendly. I wonder what his perception of me was. No socks, dirty, clearly has some money (nice touring gear), frees stuck bees, headed to Nemaska (there's wolves out there). I wonder, but I'm surely just some dude, same as always. I probably feel a good bit crazier than I appear.
Back on the road. I was looking at a wild beautiful sunset and zonking out. Driver said I could lay down if I wanted. It was a sleeper. It reminded me of my van home. A vehicle with a bed. I laid down, and we got to Louvencourt in about an hour. I loaded up my bicycle and headed off into the night with no fucking idea what I was doing. I stopped 30 feet down the road for a 40 of 10.1% LaBatt and some potato chips. Potato chips? Really? Apparently so.
I sat in some woods drinking with the mosquitos, then I decided it was time to continue. HA! That shit didn't last too long. Have you ever been rolling down the highway looking at the side of the road - up a hill, behind a billboard - and thought to yourself: I could sleep there, there, there... Well, you probably can. I got one of those spots and zonked out. Up a hill, behind a tree, behind a sign. Invisible as Harry Potter's cloak. The invisibility cloak.
Fuck this fucking rain, what the fuck? I woke up in rain. I don't know what I did wrong, aside from everything obvious, but specifically: why was my sleeping bag (blanket mode) getting so fucking wet? I woke up in the rain with the flap up (still no pole, fuggit). Did I really sleep through that much rain? I put the flap down (suffocation mode) and actually did sleep a little more before life started to get too ridiculous to lay down any longer. I rose up. My sleepshit-pannier was open, exposing my book to rain (The Unbearable Lightness of Being; READ THIS TODAY.) My left shoe had slugs 'n slugs 'n was soaked. I strapped everything to the tops of my bags and rolled out down the highway. While rolling, I considered the improbability that my left shoe contained multiple slugs, and my right shoe was slug free. I hadn't done a thorough investigation, due to the uncomfortable circumstances. Now I note later - as I sit in Val D'or typing this in a Tim Horton's - that this investigation has yet to occur. It felt like there coulda been a slug. We'll see.
Back to rolling down the highway. Bicycling makes many crap situations more bearable. It wouldn't be my first choice to roll around in cold rain at 8am with all my necessary shit soaked and tied down to my bags - but it was better once I got going. When I was standing around packing up my shit, I looked down to see at least a dozen mosquitos all over my legs. I was cold. Now, riding a bicycle, I was warming up - and mosquitos don't chew into a moving cyclist. (I discovered the extent of this rule in the Everglades at sundown, evading a massive attack on a pink 3 speed Townie.)
I rolled. Not quite 10 miles into the morning festivities, a mini van pulled over in front of me. Mechanical difficulty? I thought not. Confirmed. A ride! Without even using my thumb. The way I see it: I looked so pitiful yet trustworthy that a kind soul gave me a lift. He was an older gentleman who spoke a little bit of English. Judging by his hat, he was headed to work at Burger King. He took me straight to Tim Horton's in the heart of Val D'or. Population: approx 30,000 or something. The biggest thing up around here.