Made it to Canada!

6/22/22

Today was another bicycling day, 39 miles. (Or should I say, 63 kilometers! Gotta get used to this metric stuff for the next several weeks…)

The weather cooperated, with pleasant temps and even a tailwind for most of the way! Unfortunately I think I got a bit of sunburn on my arms; not enough sunscreen, I guess. Pretty mild, though.

I left the lodge just after 10:00 am, and pedaled through mile after mile of beautiful bucolic scenery, first in Vermont and then in Quebec.

Crossing the border went very smoothly. I only had to wait for one car ahead of me. I can now say that I have crossed into Canada by car, bus, train, boat, plane… and now, finally, by pedal power! Other than simply walking across, I think that is every possible way.

I did have a bit of a snafu with my phone service. Although my Verizon plan promised unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada (at no extra charge!) I found that once I crossed the border, service got very spotty and shoddy, to the point that my phone was pretty much unusable for most of the day. I could have stressed out about it, but mostly chose not to: I still had access to my map (though not the directions, without internet) and the address of my new Warmshowers host Gaby here in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. I used this to navigate and find his place just fine, although unfortunately I wasn’t able to text him ahead of time as we had agreed, and therefore he also couldn’t text me the code to get in before he arrived. It was OK, though; I hung out in a nearby park until he got home from work. (And I eventually found that restarting the phone did seem to help, although I have WiFi here at the house now, too.)

Meanwhile, I enjoyed all the fun new signs in this country, although I admit I was intimidated by the language barrier. I’ve been a bit nervous about that for weeks. I have visited Quebec once before—in May of 2019, for the same Montreal Marillion Weekend I’ll be attending next week—and found it a bit challenging to be surrounded by spoken and written French everywhere, since I don’t speak it. At that time and place, I found that everyone I encountered could and would speak English with me if I replied to their “bonjour” greeting with a smile and a “hi,” and I’m trusting that will be the case this time, as well. But even so, it adds a bit of stress for me to be in a place where the language does not flow easily for me. I’m used to living a very verbal life, and also striking up conversations with strangers as I travel.

I did manage to navigate a natural-foods store, though, and pick up several vegan sweet treats. (All I needed to say was “Merci!” as I left the register.)

Gaby had prepared a vegan meal ahead of time for dinner; although he is not completely vegan himself—and I had not yet mentioned that I was, because I didn’t want to presume that he would provide meals—he said he had noticed that his Warmshowers guests seem to prefer vegan meals. Cool!

We ate on the back patio, overlooking his vegetable garden, and ended up talking culture and politics for hours. I learned a few things about Canada. It was all very interesting, and I was extra appreciative for his engagement and enthusiasm: he is Quebecois, so French is his native language and he struggled occasionally to find the right English words. It was a wonderfully warm welcome for me into this country, and this new chapter of my journey.

Tomorrow I had planned to make one more riding day, into Montreal. The forecast is not looking at all pleasant for that. Gaby has graciously offered to let me stay another night here if I need it. I’ll see how the weather shapes up in the morning, and decide then.

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