Montreal to Quebec City, QC
9-9-01 The next few days were spent with my friend Maria (from the trip in the Venezuelan Amazon
) who is going to school in Montreal. These were dreamy days filled with bike rides through a city made for bikes, European style (very strongly flavored) ice cream and sorbets, and long walks through the parks filled with beautiful water fountains. It was so good to see her again - the only person I knew from before my trip that I've met up with during this bike tour. We stayed up late into the nights talking about our last trip, my current trip, and her current adventure here in Montreal, so far away from her sweetie in Connecticut.
9-11-01 With my new-found confidence in French speaking Quebec I headed out into the countryside on the wide shoulders and through beautiful scenery with good weather. My tires however were not so happy, and kept getting flats. On this morning, I was fixing my first flat of the day on my rear tire when a white faced old man came out of the shop and beckoned to me in broken English "Come, plane in New York!" Waving his hands for me to follow, he lead me into a little cement room with nothing in it but a chair, a stool and a TV on the stool. The TV showed a building burning with announcers who were talking very rapidly in French. My heart sank... I figured a plane had crashed from the look on his face and the few words the man could say in English, but into the city itself? We stood in the little room mesmerized with the horror on the screen when from behind the one burning tower of the world trade center (one phrase I could understand in French) came another plane that crashed into the second tower. Suddenly this was no longer an accident. I watched the screen, horrified as the announcers talked even faster and with higher pitched voices. Pulling myself away briefly, I plugged my cell phone into the solar panels. The sun was just high enough to begin charging the dead phone. I went back to the TV and tried to learn French from the repeated words on the TV. After an impatient ten minutes I returned to the cell phone and didn't wait for it to charge any longer. I called my Dad.
I had so many questions to ask, but when he answered, all I got out was "Dad?" "Where are you?!" He replied quickly. "I'm in a little gas station in Quebec, but everything's in French! What is going on?" Dad took a deep breath, "It looks like we are in a war. Those jihad bastards have crashed two airliners full of innocent passengers into the world trade center and one into the pentagon!" I couldn't believe it, my head more full of emotion than coherent thoughts. "The pentagon?" "Yes, the pentagon. And who knows what is next, it has only been a half hour, and all of that happened within the first fifteen minutes." I was shaking. They had hit the pentagon. Our very center of the US military. For some reason the towers seemed more vulnerable to me than the pentagon. The man at the gas station had come out to see my reaction to the full understanding of what had happened, as I was the only person from the US in the area. I was overwhelmed. Completing repairs on the tire, I pedaled hard, listening to French CBC, cursing the Quebec province for their lack of English coverage when the rest of the country always has accessibility to French CBC. Each of four flats that day were accompanied with a TV watching session, and a call into Dad and Sharon asking what various things I had tried to understand in French were in reality. The most worrisome moment for me was when the radio listed something about California. I hadn't been too worried about my friends in California,
as all the attacks had been made or attempted on the east coast government areas. But Los Angeles is a center of movie production for the world, it could be a target, if this is truly a cultural attack as the news was indicating. Dad reassured me that California is where the planes had been headed, so they were full of fuel, and there had been no more known crashes. My mind was fixated on the radio news, even in French, for the next few days. In a relatively short time, most peoples' initial fear and hatred faded and was replaced with an understanding of extremists in any culture, and the focus was turned onto what could possibly be the best thing to do next.
9-12-01 The road had wound down into a valley filled with sunshine and fruit crops. The smell of the apples so intoxicatingly strong that I eventually had to stop and buy one, even if I did have to cut it into little pieces to eat it (TMJ has prevented my eating anything hard or that you have to bite into, such as apples and carrots, for the last few years.) A man came out and stared at my bike with the same interest I was giving his apple stand. I tried to ask how much it would be to purchase only one apple, as I had no room to carry an entire basket. He invited me into the little hut where the apples were sorted and the baskets compiled. He handed me an apple while saying "Melba." "Melba?" I replied. I didn't know this word. He pointed up to the sign over their farm house - Melba et MacIntosh Pommes. "Oh! Melba Pomme" He smiled and waited to see if I liked the taste of the apple.
Not wanting to dig through my gear for a knife, I gingerly took a bite, trying to use only my top teeth without opening my jaw. The taste that entered my mouth was heavenly. This was the smell that was filling the valley! I took out my wallet to pay for the apple, and he waved it away, handing me a bag of eleven more apples and three tomatoes. Through a customer who knew a little English, he explained that he was a fellow traveler, who lives on a sailboat for most of the year, sailing the world for the past seven years, but then returning to Quebec each fall to help his parents with the harvest and sale of the apples.