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North to Canada Following the St. Lawrence River

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We are whale watching in Tadoussac on the St Lawrence but staying 30 miles inland in Petit Saguenay. You will need to look on the map/world atlas to see exactly where we were. It’s about a hundred miles northeast of Quebec City up where the St. Lawrence River widens out and meets the Atlantic salt water influx and tidal effects.  We spent the day traveling northeast (The long way) through the Laurentian mountains to Tadoussac.   Rod drove quite a bit out of the way to see the Laurentian Mountains and a National Park within.  Unfortunately, it was a yawner. We saw no animals, no birds, no nothing.  There was a nice guest center but the displays were not all that informative.  Unlike our national park system where rangers are ever present to explain whatever, there seemed to be sufficient rangers but they were not available to answer questions.  I believe that the Canadian Government has much less money to pump into the national parks than the U.S.  Oh, but there were bird and animal calls piped into the bathroom.  Sometimes this was a bit disconcerting when you were utilizing the facilities. You thought, “did the staff forget to close the windows last night?”

We are as far north as we are going to go–roughly entering the Gaspe Peninsula region.  We had to use a car ferry to get to Tadoussac.  The ferry is on the main highway to the Maritimes and Halifax, and runs all year in combination with an icebreaker.  It very often gets to 30 below in the winter. You’d think it would be cheaper to build a bridge–this being the only land route to that area.  This area is of great strategic importance to Canada and the US because of the shipping. During WW II German U-boats menaced the Gulf of St Lawrence area.

There is now a large Canadian Military Air base in Saguaney.

Tadoussac is suddenly an oasis in a desert of trees, mountains and nothingness; a small, modern resort town very much out of place with the rest of the surrounding country. Canadians flock here for holiday.  Americans……don’t know it exists and I think that’s the way the French Canadians want it.  We were the only American license plate we saw in several days.  Petit Saguenay, on the other hand, is somehow a side-road in West Virginia in a parallel universe stuck in northern Canada.

At length we finally arrived at the bed and breakfast, probably the most beautiful house in town. It is, however, the nicest place we have stayed in so far.  There is nothing else around here. No motels at all. One store/gas station/market, two churches.  We are far off the beaten path.  We had to eat dinner at what amounts to somebody’s house–one of two options here in Une Petite Saguenay.

Speaking of food, as we have gotten away from the two big cities I have had increasing  problems with French Canadian food.  It seems that everything is soaked in greasy gravy and is deep fried. Take for instance the Canadian national comfort food of choice that is served in every restaurant we have been to—Poutine, which is french fries floating in gravy with cheese curds on it. Just when you think that the food can’t get any worse………..I had a most horrible pizza for dinner this evening.  I thought, pizza is baked, it can’t be very greasy, right?  Wrong!  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Yesterday I got very sick all night and next day on a “steak” dinner that I ordered that turned out to be two small hamburger patties fried with onions and floating in gravy. The gravy saturated everything else on the plate. I made a concerted but in vain effort not to eat any gravy.  It’s been Pepto Bismol all day and crackers. So I swore that I would only eat something that couldn’t possibly be soaked in grease or gravy. We went to the other restaurant.  It was crowded. Much of Canada seems in a time warp 50 years behind the US particularly in clothing, housing, infrastructure.   Everyone was dressed in garish 1950’s fashions, with painted big ruby red lips. I thought it was a costume party, it wasn’t. It was just Saturday night in Petite Saguenay.  I ordered pizza because I thought it hopefully wouldn’t be greasy.  It came literally floating in liquid. I had to extract it from the large plate it was served on and place several napkins under it to soak up the liquid.  It totally saturated 3 large napkins.  I tried to eat the topping and the outer crust. The soaked napkins actually looked more appetizing. The “pepperoni” was actually slices of bologna.  I only ate a small bit of the topping of the pizza and none of the baloney which was melted and stuck to the bottom crust. Carrie and Rod tried the rest and confirmed it was God awful.  I’m running out of Pepto Bismol. I thought, “I hope I can get through the night and keep it down. My stomach is rumbling even now”. I ordered a Coke, it came lukewarm in a water glass with NO ice.  I pleaded for Glace—“Hey lady, crazy American needs ice, glace, the stuff you skate on”.  Finally she got the message and brought ice to me in a wine glass. Thank God, tomorrow we’ll be back in the USA.

On a better note, the whale watching was tremendous.  I got good pictures. It was sunny and bright, 48 degrees with a 20 mph wind off the North Atlantic. You needed a substantial jacket.  The boat is about 100 ft. long.  We hit a day when many schools of different whales, porpoises, seals, otters were all feeding ravenously.  There were, and are, white whales, whole schools of them and Ahab was not tied to any of them.  Big black whales and smaller grey whales (Minkes as they are referred to) “Minke off the bow, Minkes at three o clock, Minke jumping on the poop deck”, and seals everywhere. This, incidentally was in direct contradiction to Toulouse LaTrec’s (Montreal wildlife tour captain/guide/fountain of knowledge) warning that there wouldn’t be any whales out on a sunny day—“Eeeeeeehh, feesh I think, look at black duck!”

Our boat had a capacity of 600 people and it was full. Many people didn’t even have seats. Is  that legal?  They just walked around the three decks for three hours.  Every time whales were sighted on one side of the boat, people would run to that side…..and the boat would list in that direction.  I had visions of the Titanic again. There were many, many crying, screaming, howling babies and young children. These French Canadians have a lot of kids–long winters I guess.

Why are people infatuated with taking selfies?  They have these long sticks…… It’s obnoxious.  I thought they came up here to see whales but they are infatuated with taking pictures of themselves.  Is this not self-indulgence to extremes?  I did not hear one word of English from any of them. The narrator spoke in French, Spanish, and English but it was hard to hear over the loud chatter in French by the people and the din of the ship’s engine.

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Skip Schweitzer, of Mantua, can be described from early on in life as an avid outdoorsman and old car restorer and aficionado. He comes from a long line of great lakes fishermen and hunters. He is a taxidermist and a retired psychologist. His grandfather Charles, a machinist and fisherman who fed his family with fish during the Great Depression, was one of the original auto restorers at the Thompson Auto Museum, now the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum. Skip learned to hunt, fish and restore cars from his father Roy and learned the value and appreciation of antique automobiles from his grandfather. Skip has, over the years, restored upwards of 25 automobiles including many Fords, Studebakers, Buicks, Jeeps and VWs. Skip has written extensively on automobiles and outdoors for several newspapers, magazines and auto publications this past 20 years. His current antique automobiles include a 1930 Ford Model “A”, and a 1970 Volkswagen Cabriolet. Skip’s most frequent bylines are, Outdoors With Skip, and The Old Road.