One of my favorite vacations was a month-long visit to our northern neighbors. The people throughout Canada just seem so friendly and interesting. The itinerary for the trip was Ottawa, Toronto, Quebec, along the St. Lawrence Seaway, Nova Scotia, and finally Prince Edward Island. This story is about the St. Lawrence River on a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise morning.
We were done with our Canadian tours of Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec, so now it was time for to slow down and relax in the beauty of the St. Lawrence Seaway. One thing we quickly discovered was that when we left Quebec City, we pretty much left humanity behind. It seems that Quebec Highway 132, which is a two-lane road is for the most part uninhabited, at least by our standards. As we approached the 300 km mark, I started getting worried that we might have to sleep in the car! Finally, just before panic was beginning to set in, we came onto the town of Riviere-Trois-Pistoles. It was a very small town with only one store and no overnight accommodations. Just on the other side of town there was a small sign on the road with the words “motel” with an arrow pointing to the right. We were desperate, so decided to give it a try. After five minutes on the gravel road I began to wonder if the sign had been maybe abandoned years before, it certainly looked old enough.
Finally, a couple of buildings appeared on the horizon. One was a small house and the other appeared to be a long chicken coup. Hesitantly, we approached the house and found a typical motel office type room. When we asked about staying the night the person behind the counter muttered a few words in French and then went into the back room. We were just about to leave when an older lady appeared. She told us that her husband didn’t speak much English, but she assured us that she had rooms available for the night, and she would give us her best one. In desperation, we agreed without even asking the price or seeing the room.
It was a small but clean room among about a half dozen others in the “chicken coop”. There was a sign above the small sink that proclaimed in both French and English “Don’t drink the water – showering OK”. The room had a musky odor and filled with antique (read that as very old) furniture. There was no TV as there was likely no reception. The double bed was bouncy, to say the least. More about that later. What made this room so special was its location; it was about 50 ft from the shoreline of a very wide portion of the St. Lawrence River. The view was simply spectacular!
We had not eaten since breakfast that day, so we decided to go back to Riviere-Trois-Pistoles to visit its only store. It turns out that it was well stocked with a variety of cheese. We purchased a selection and some crackers for our dinner that night. We decided to eat our dinner delight at the picnic table just outside our room. The view there of the St. Lawrence proved to be much more pleasurable than the food itself and that is how it should have been. We watched a couple and their young children play along the rocky shoreline. They were staying in an RV adjacent to the “motel”. Even without hearing them I could see that they were having the time of their life.
As the sun was setting we returned to our “Don’t drink the water” room and decided to call in a night. Little did I realize what kind of night it would be. The sheets were clean, but the covers were tattered and had a mothball odor. After my wife fell quickly asleep I laid down on the bed and found a very obnoxious broken spring poking me into my back. I thought I could ignore it but quickly found out otherwise. The more I tried to adjust my position the worse it seemed to get. After about two hours of maneuvering I finally gave up and decided to spend the night in the lumpy tattered chair next to the bed. I nodded off and on for what seemed like an eternity until a slight glimmer of light finally stretched into the room.
As it become lighter, I decided to venture out to get a first glimpse of the St. Lawrence and maybe take a nap on the more likely comfortable picnic table. As the sky became lighter and lighter, I noticed about 100 yards away a lone fisherman sitting on a five-gallon bucket with a long fishing pole over the water. Even though I was watching from a distance I felt I was intruding on his personal space, but that didn’t keep me from scurrying back to the room to pick up my camera. I sneaked a few pictures and I watched him for about ten more minutes. He didn’t catch any fish, but I don’t suspect that was the true reason he was out there. I think he just wanted to savor the surroundings. I kind of get the idea that he probably did this many other mornings just to start his day out with a peaceful resolve.
The sunrise that morning was spectacular! The colors seem to have been drenched by a rainbow. That was the most uncomfortable night I had on this trip but I will always remember it. Especially since I shared it with a nameless new Canadian friend, if only at a distance.