Saturday, April 7, 2012

Touring Quebec's ""Maggies"" Via Motorcycle

"Touring Quebec's ""Maggies"" Via Motorcycle"," Even with my research they remained a mystery and, despite stories heard, I'd never met anyone who had actually been there. Yet, when the Traversier docked at Prince Edward Island, nine bikes rolled out; when it left, it carried four. Located in the Gulf of St. Authoritative sources can't even agree on the extent of their land area (somewhere between 77 and 88 square miles), but there are seven inhabited islands and all but one are connected by a single highway. A five-hour ferry ride establishes a sense of distance and imbues a feeling that one is headed to an exotic location. My first view of Entry Island was unlike any other part of the Appalachians I'd ever seen. The tourist board had graciously assisted this trip by doing all the hard work in setting up an itinerary based on my specific requests. Imagine a place where every home is painted a different color. Varied hues of purple, red, blue, orange, green and yellow intermingle with houses painted pastel turquoise, pink, lavender, mint and mauve. Route 199 is only 54. Its entire length, from the docks in La Grave to the harbor in Grande Entrée, can be easily ridden in an hour and a half. However, all the time, effort and expense required just to get me to this highway proves to be justified. It's a long, straight stretch of highway. Normally I don't care for long, straight roads, but this is exceptional. In other places the powdery sands of transverse dunes crest above the road and spill onto its asphalt shoulders while blue herons stride through the lush saltwater marshes on the opposite side of the highway. I pass one of the top-ranked beaches in the world. Except for two short stretches on either end, this exceptional strip of sand is deserted. The bike can be parked anywhere, since stealing a motorcycle just isn't feasible when the only escape is by ferry. Today most of the fishing fleet is docked and the boutiques and restaurants seem to be moderately busy. La Grave is at the other end of the road so, pulling a U-turn, I head in the opposite direction. The village of La Grave was the first settlement in the islands, established in 1755 by refugees escaping the Acadian Expulsion ( Le Grand Derangement) by the British in Nova Scotia (others sought refuge in Louisiana and created Cajun culture). Its tiny cedar-shingled fishing sheds date from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but rather than housing lobster traps, they've been transformed into small boutiques and galleries that feature the work of local artists and artisans. It's the place to order the local specialty, a seafood pie called ""pot-en-pot. The yellow one turns out to be Café la Cote, where salt-cod pizza is the house specialty. Having rusted to the same red color as the cliffs, I can't figure out what it is and have to ask. As it turns out, a large percentage of the residents are directly descended from the survivors of more than 400 shipwrecks, and many buildings on these islands were constructed from salvaged ship timbers. Pierre in Lavernière; it also has the distinction of being the second-largest wooden church in North America. More than 2 million pounds of lobster are harvested annually, as well as fresh scallops, blue mussels, clams, snow crab and a variety of fish. Fumoir d'Antan on Ile du Havre-aux-Maisons has created an excellent little museum in the original smokehouse. I purchase vacuum packages to bring home and a couple of ""snack-packs"" to munch on while riding about - this probably explains why my tankbag smells a little fishy. Prior to the creation of Route 199 in 1956, Madelinots had to boat from island to island. Today this remains evident on Entry Island, the only inhabited one not connected by road. After circumventing the island and looking at the nesting sites of local seabirds, including those of the Razorbill Auk, a couple hours remained to hike up Big Hill for a panoramic view of the archipelago. Lawrence River to Montreal. I have to be content with this, but it does provide a reason for me to return to Iles de la Madeleine next year. Make my day click this