Posted by: Silver | June 8, 2012

La Baie to Chicoutimi

La Baie to Roberval:
Distance: 116 km
Ascent: 709 m
Cycling time: 6 hours, 30 minutes

Roberval to Dolbeau-Mistassini:
Distance: 85 km
Ascent: 375 m
Cycling time: 5 hours, 10 minutes

Dolbeau-Mistassini to Alma:
Distance: 101 km
Ascent: 654 m
Cycling time: 7 hours, 15 minutes

Alma to Chicoutimi:
Distance: 66 km
Ascent: 473 m
Cycling time: 4 hours, 10 minutes

As you know, I am – like the orphans I’m trying to help – entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers for my survival as I continue along this journey, spreading the word about SOS Children’s Villages and trying to highlight the big difference that a small act of kindness can make. I am thus extremely grateful for the fact that, all across Canada, strangers have been amazingly kind, both in their support of SOS, and also in their willingness to do so much more than simply help keep me alive. Here are just a few very recent examples:

Heading up to Roberval, I stopped off at a gas station to use the bathroom; by the time I re-emerged, the attendant had the local newspaper open on the counter: “That’s you, isn’t it?” he asked, pointing at a photo in which, let’s face it, Ranger was far more instantly recognizable than I was. “Please let me give you something to fuel you up: would you like a Gatorade? Or a Red Bull? Or…?”
You’ll all be deeply shocked to learn that in the end, I plumped for some chocolate…

In Roberval itself, I was amazed and humbled by the number of people who reached into their pockets to hand over cash donations, but I had to deliberately steer the interviewer from the local radio station and my co-interviewee from the Lions Club away from waxing lyrical about people’s generosity in order to point out that all donations were immediately deposited in a bank account and I would NOT be heading out onto the road the next day with large amounts of cash about my person… They later admitted that they kinda hadn’t thought about that… Hmm, good job one of us is safety-minded, eh?

Then, on the way to Dolbeau, I was once again fuelled up by someone who’d seen the article about my journey in the local paper: this time it was the owner of the only organic dairy in the area, who sent me on my way with a block of delicious St Félicien cheese. 🙂

Upon my arrival in Dolbeau, however, things didn’t start out quite so happily: one of the lenses fell out of my cycling glasses. I was on the point of starting to panic slightly – given how utterly essential my glasses are to me – when I finally managed to decipher the famously thick Lac Saint Jean accent enough to discover that my latest host was an optometrist! She not only repaired my cycling glasses, but offered to make me a new spare pair as well! And just in case anyone out there reading this happens to have perfect vision and therefore doesn’t know: glasses ain’t cheap! I was quite literally rendered speechless by such an amazingly generous gift.

And this is only a brief selection of the many, many acts of kindness that were shown towards me and SOS Children’s Villages around Lac Saint Jean: the others are only omitted to keep this entry acceptably short, not because I’m not equally grateful for all the amazingly generous gifts that people gave.

And yes, that did include a slice of blueberry pie! * 😉

(* For those of you who don’t know: the Lac Saint Jean area is seriously famous for its blueberries!)

Another act of kindness very gratefully received: my host in Roberval bought me an ice cream mouse!

One of many, many fields of lowbush blueberries! (Incidentally, the bright blue structure you can just see in the background is not a portaloo, but a shelter for the hard-working pollinator bees)

Pretty much the whole of my route in this area was along the recently opened ‘Route des bleuets’: a cycle route that winds its way all around Lac Saint Jean, frequently on dedicated bike paths like this. 🙂 For the sake of brevity, let’s just say I recommend it!

With one of the highest concentrations of aluminium smelters in the world, it’s possibly fair to say that the area around Chicoutimi isn’t always the most picturesque, but looking down on the city at sunset, I could certainly think of worse views…

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