Today started like any ordinary day. We woke up, packed our bags, loaded our bikes, and bought fresh bread from the patisserie. Rolling out of the campsite, Chris noticed that his load was loose. The bolt and nut holding his rack in place had fallen out. Within minutes, we located a hardware shop 1/4 mile from our campsite. Sarah rigged a zip tie to hold the gear in place for the interim.
Setting out, confident and eager after a solid day of rest, we began to scale the first hill out of Perce. My gears felt a bit sticky, but I thought nothing of it. Everything about my bike is a bit different with this heavy load. Two miles out, my chain suddenly fell off. No big deal! Smearing the grease from my hands on my legs, I remounted my bike only to find that now my upper gears were no longer operable at all! My bike was stuck in the lowest hill slimming gear possible, which given the incredible headwinds we were battling was not the worst. I might go a full 25 miles today and not even shift into middle gear - after all, I had just gone two miles in crawl mode, hunched against the wind, swimming upstream. Now as I write this, I feel my cheeks are on fire. Wind burn, like nothing I've ever had, even in Patagonia.
Five hours passed quickly. Despite leaving a significant two hour buffer, we spent our spare time negotiating mechanical errors leaving us to race the clock at 5 mph. We planned to catch a 3:20 bus to New Richmond where we would hop in the car for a quick visit to the Chic Choc Mountains in Gaspesie National Park. Normally 25 miles would be easy. We had been riding 6-9 mph every other day, and with significantly more food and water. The headwinds were killing us! Now I understood why there was little sailing here. There is too much wind! (Or so I am assuming).
Yet... We were so close. The bus station was just three miles out. We would make it, but barely! Sarah shouted ahead to me, stopped by the side of the road. Her back tire had just blown. Under ordinary circumstances, we would merely stop and fix it. In this case, we ditched plan A. Chris quickly unloaded the gear from his bike, allowing Sarah to leap into action. Sarah would race the three mikes to the bus station, catch the bus to New Richmond, drive the car back to Chandler (60 miles), and then we would drive to the Chic Chocs. Given luck, we would arrive at the camp before the gates closed for the night....
All in all, it was a perfectly acceptable fate. We would still get where we needed to be. I settled in the heavenly shade, pulling open my book. By the time I caught my breath, I already had a new plan. Strolling across the parking lot toward a few burly men (i.e. the type I assumed might be driving the large trucks parked in the lot) and their wives, I asked in my pathetic combination of French, Spanish, and English how far the bus station was. In truth, I knew it was three miles away, but let's keep things simple when we are rolling with a language barrier. They told me, and - as you might expect, my face fell. I explained that we would not make our bus because our bikes were broken. These were good ole boys, coal miners in fact, from Northern Canada on their 12 week vacation in Gaspe. I bid them goodbye, hoping that they might shout out and offer a ride to the bus station, even though I didn't actually ask. I felt shy imposing, and better if they readily offered the service themselves. Five minutes later, one of the men pulled along side us in his truck. "Get een! I geeve you ride." Chris and I were ready. Score!
So, despite incredible headwinds, and minor mechanical failures on all three bikes, we still caught the bus. It didn't go exactly as planned, or even as fate had planned it. I do, admittedly, love making things happen despite the odds. It's very satisfying.