Day 1 had taken us over 200 km so we figured we would make this second one a little easier. We left from the campsite around 9:00 or so and biked with a nice tailwind for quite some time. There isn't much to say about this part. The weather was nice and the tailwind was great. Of course the view could not really have been better.
We passed an interesting town that consisted in about three or four roads. The main one was the highway where probably 200 homes were installed. The other ones were no more than 50m long and 3 houses deep. Despite ample flat land in the area all the homes had been built to form a 2km by 50m or 75m agglomeration. It struck us as particularly odd at the time.
Around 2 o'clock we stopped in a grocery store to get some food for diner. The plan was to stop earlier but stores out here are really sparse. We ate and left. Little did we know these were some of the last easy kilometers on our path.
To tell you the truth I had never traveled around the Gaspesie before this trip. I had ventured to Cap-Chat once and because the road to this municipality was completely flat I assumed all of the Gaspesie was relatively flat. It wasn't very long until I was proven long. In the middle of the afternoon on this second day we hit the first HILL on our trip. There is a very good reason for the uppercase letters. We were coasting down a bump and in the distance we see some really steep road leading straight up an escarpment. At first I thought this was a side road and that the highway would bypass this inconvenience. We quickly found out this was the path of the main road and figured that the 18 to 20% pitch was indeed cruel but at least not too long. I tried to accelerate in order to carry my speed in the climb. This works great on small bumps but it only took me up a few meters where I was left to crawl up the hill.
About 500 m in the climb I found out the hill was at least twice as long as I thought and that it never seemed to drop below the 18% mark. I also found out that running a 30 x 23 gear ratio was pretty hardcore for climbing with a 100lbs bike. For those of you that don't know me, I only weigh 130lbs thus pedaling my bike up this type of hill made me feel as though I had a tank.
All these thoughts were a feeble attempt to distract me from the burning sensation in my legs. I didn't have much of an option to climb this hill. I needed to be out of the saddle pushing and pulling as hard as I could while maintaining a decent tempo or else I would stall and need to stop. Pushing the bike up the hill was an option to be considered only the back panniers put me in an awkward position to push and quite frankly it would not really have been easier, just longer.
Just like in my younger days as an unfit teen where I could have sworn 10 times I had just about reached the top of the P10 hill in Gatineau Park, this hill kept going and going. Alas a dip came and went only to introduce a new hill which fortunately was not quite as insane. There was a blind corner on the road and I decided to wait for my partner more in fear of what the corner could hide than in pain or politeness. My friend Paul works as a bike mechanic and he set up a Giant XTC hardtail with a rigid trials fork and 700C wheels with disc brakes. He kept a MTB crankset and casette meaning he had crazy low gears to crawl up this type of hill.
Once we took a small break for food we started again only to find another big hill after that bend in the road. In order to shorten this description of possibly the most physically challenging day I'll just say that the following 70 km consisted in climbing 10-15 min on steep (8-15%) hills and then coming down really nice downhills. The catch was 2 weeks prior to our trip there had been massive rain storms in the area. These had washed out the roads nearly everytime the road stopped going down and started going up. This kept us from carrying any kind of momentum up the hill and it was very frustrating. As the day went by I kept going faster in these bits of yet un-repaved patches. If it wasn't for my newly built wheelset or wide tires I am sure I would have destroyed my wheels a few times. I also got scared for the forks a few times.
This day was probably the first time I had to brake and seriously plan my path down hills on a road bike. 15% grades with 100lbs bikes, strong crosswinds and a very bumpy road required me to brake quite often in order to make the curb. We really wanted to get to Florillon National Park and so we did after a hard day that finished in the dark. No need to mention that the steak I cooked up that evening was by far the best I ever eaten and it was not only because I was hungry!
Day 2 - La Martre to Florillon
186.87 km day
393.37 km trip
24.1 km/h avg
82.0 km/h max
Day 3 - We woke up quite late on day 3 and visited the very nice beach after breakfast. Departure was achieved by 12:00 or so and we enjoyed some more hills.
At this point I had decided I needed a mountain bike casette with larger cogs but I wasn't sure I would be able to get one. I was starting to be scared that all of the Gaspesie was this hilly. I knew I could pull my way through whether I liked it or not but my partner Paul and I weren't sure he would manage quite as well. We quickly passed these steep hills and entered the moderatly hilly but very windy part of the Gaspesie.
If you look at the map of the day below you will notice that we biked around a huge bay. Going inland there was a slight uphill coupled with a strong headwind. The way back on the other side was also upwards but we never felt the wind help us.
After about 4 hours of riding we could still see where we had been after a 20 min bike in the morning. Not exactly motivating but we moved on to reach Gaspe and attempt to find a bike shop. After two stores we finally found the only decent casette (11-28) in town. These two bike shops had about 3 casettes in stock together.
Two things struck me. First of all, the bicycle specialists in town were not really specialists. They carried equipment for about 15 different sports and the top floor was reserved for hunting equipment and bikes. Think about parts wall next to an ammo cabinet. The other oddity concerned the stock carried in the store. There were practically no road bikes and the top of the line bicycle was worth about $1000. Oh and everyone rides Specialized because it's basically the only quality brand that's carried. It dawned on me that I had gotten used to the Gatineau / Ottawa region with dozens of bike shops each carrying a few bikes worth over 5000$ (and they sell).
It made me notice how we had yet to see a nice bike, and it would have to wait up until Quebec City. By comparison Gatineau Park was quite ridiculous with 4000 to 7000$ bikes regularly flying by. The bikes in some pelotons around here could easily total to more than 100 000$ worth of equipment zooming by. I would have been amazed to see a basic 105 equipped aluminum frame whereas in the Park you are almost seen as one of the poor riders.
I obviously thought about all of this and much more as I rode on flat roads with a slightly helpful crosswind. Before we knew it we were within sight of Perce. We stopped for pictures as I though about the risk of coming home to my parents with 5 pictures and none of Perce. With only about an hour and a half of daylight left we knew we had to hurry and find a nice spot to camp as there didn't seem to be very much along the bay we were starting to bike around. Bays are really nice and scenic to drive around but they really suck away your energy and motivation when you bike as you don't seem to be covering much ground fighting against crosswinds.
We ended up finding a beautiful place about a km before Perce in a rest stop which was over the road and shielded from the wind. The pictures speak for themselves - see the pictures that accompany this story. I think this was our best spot outside campgrounds.
Day 3 - Florillon to Perce
116.39 km day
509.92 km trip
22.7 km/h avg
75.0 km/h max