35.1 mi / 10.0 mph / 925 ft. climbing
Home: Parc de Gros-Cap Campground
The whole reason we decided to come to the Magdalen Islands was because there was almost no wind in the forecast for this three day period. Well, that forecast held true last night, but by this morning we’d reached a deviation, with 10-15mph winds from the south. While this was a big disappointment for our planned bike excursion, I tried to remind us that we were still luckier than normal, because 20 mph winds seem to be basically standard here, with 30mph winds (and 40+ mph gusts) not at all unusual.
Once rolling, we discovered that, for better or worse, the winds today were unusually steady. The upside was that there were no gusts pushing in different directions to contend with, but it also meant that there were no moments of relief. A fast-passing van flinched Rett into a nerve-twinging headache, adding to her discomfort after the closed-for-cleaning bathroom denied her its use at the campground on the way out.
On the plus side, our route along the barrier dunes (that connect our home “island” of Cap-aux-Meules with our destination “island” of Havre Aubert) was the flattest thing we’ve been on since Ohio. And, as part of the “Route Verte”, Quebec’s province-crossing bike route network, it had wide, smooth shoulders. And so before we had even reached Havre Aubert, Rett had made an impressive mental recovery, reaching acceptance of the inexorable wind and the 8 mph speed that it enforced. That Buddhist attitude was especially necessary, because the further we progressed along the arc of the dunes, the more-directly we came to face the wind, much like climbing a hill that gets ever-steeper the closer you get to the top (both of which also sound like an imagined Buddhist parable).
Although the Magdalens are referred to as a set of islands, seven of those “islands” are connected as landmass that I think most geographers would refer to as a single island. But the terrain is so different between the rocky “island” mounds, and the flat stretches of barrier dune that connect them, that I can understand and accept the imprecision of language. Our arrival to Harve Aubert Island allowed us to turn out of the wind, but then we instantly returned to hilly terrain in exchange.
The residential area we traversed was most-unusual, with the location of houses having very little connection to the location of the road, nothing even close to a street grid, and a lack of obvious boundaries between properties (perhaps the absence of trees contributes to that feeling).
Our destination (mostly just an “excuse” for heading this way) was Fromagerie Les Biquettes à l’Air. After feeding the goats (they paid almost no attention to us until they recognized the sound of Rett putting a quarter into the vending machine to release a handful of grain, at which point they came dashing over), we walked into the small shop where the friendly owner did her best to provide English explanations of all of her products. The funniest part was when she got to the meats, and said “I’m sorry, I don’t know the English word for this, we say…. pâté“. Haha, yeah, that’s word in English too, don’t worry, that’s a bit of French we know! We walked out with a broad selection of her products.
The consistent wind stayed blessedly consistent, so our return back north was an 18 mph easy-cruising dream. On our return to Cap-aux-Meules, we hooked left to the west side of the “island” and the settlement of Étang-du-Nord.
Rett led us to Gourmande de Nature, a fancy restaurant for a fancy lunch. Though it took us a while with our lack-of-French to figure out how to get seated in the store-slash-restaurant, our friendly waitress then graciously translated literally the entire French-only menu for us. It seems that the vast majority of tourists here are from mainland Quebec, so English isn’t very expected. Though so far when “forced” into it, the islanders (in our limited sample) feel less-aggrieved than my impression of their mainland brethren.
The beer I got at the restaurant was from the local craft brewery, which somehow hadn’t even been on our radar, but our server recommended it and sent us off in that direction down a dead-end road. Woman-owned, full of interesting and excellent “Rett beers”, and gorgeous views into the late-afternoon sun from their upper-level deck, watching the glinting sparks of light reflecting off the distant cars driving the island-connecting ribbon we twice-rode: it’s difficult to understand how these remote islands with ~12k people could produce an establishment so tuned toward us. Though the nearly-full tables told us it was tuned to plenty of other people too.
Back in camp, we enjoyed a no-cook charcuterie-style dinner of our various goat cheeses, pâtés, and crackers, sitting on our camp chairs on our wooden tent platform and watching the sun go down. We discussed future plans, including the possibility to stay longer on the islands to explore more (it looked like the weather would continue in our favor for another day or two), but in the end decided to return to PEI on the ferry once our three-night booking at this campground was over.