Tuesday, July 6, 2010

arriving at the end of the road...for now

I've started developing this strange love for roadside motels and greasy spoon diners that play bad francophone country music. which is pretty good if you're on a road trip, because you'll probably see a lot of it. it's a whole culture of its own, and is pretty universal across North America, wherever you go. the only thing that changes is the accent of the waitress that serves you, and the brands of beer that they've got on tap.

totally awesome quebecois diner food: poutine and smoked meat sandwiches.

i grew up in a household where we ate Korean food every meal, so diner food is actually pretty exotic to me. and there's something comforting about its consistency across the country. No matter what province or state you're in, if you're craving homemade spaghetti, chances are you'll find it on the menu at the diner. And without pretentious prices of a downtown King Street restaurant in Toronto.

it's the same thing with roadside motels. sometimes you're just tired from driving all day and you just want to find a place where you can curl up in a warm bed and watch a hell of a lot of TV. roadside motels provide that comfort. located in the middle of nowhere, there's no pressure to make the most of your visit and go outside and productively sightsee. you can go ahead and drink a beer in bed and watch medical dramas and have a wonderful sleep that will leave you looking forward to the next ten hours of driving tomorrow morning.

last night, we pulled into Kamouraska, which we had heard was a lovely place. it's been named one of the top 20 most beautiful villages in Quebec. i know there are more than 20 villages in Quebec, so I guess it's saying something. certainly other folks seemed to think so, because every quaint motel and inn along the St Lawrence River was completely full, leaving us to feel a bit like Mary and Joseph (minus the immaculate pregnancy part). so we kept on driving down the highway till we came across our next roadside motel attached to a greasy spoon diner. On this side of Quebec City, nobody speaks English. luckily, rob and i speak just enough French to conduct our business (rent rooms, order dinner), and not enough French for the locals to want to carry on a long conversation with us, so we were allowed to eat our diner food in peace and without saying anything. which was just what we were looking for, after a long day of driving.

it had been a challenging day. New Brunswick seems to get bigger every time I cross it, and it just seems to take forever to get through it. we had a scary moment when we almost ran out of gas - we were stuck driving with the gas light on, for what seemed like forever, during what seemed to be the longest stretch of highway without any rest stops. when that happens (and that has happened to me before), all these thoughts start popping up in my head: i have no cell phone reception here. has my CAA expired? i wonder how far i can run in this heat. are people here going to be friendly because they're rural, or unfriendly, because we're from the city? where are we exactly? maybe i should call my parents. are my parents going to think i'm a total idiot for having this happen again? i wonder where i can get some free wifi, because i haven't checked facebook in like two hours.

but we made it to a gas station, where a man asked us in a slow drawl where we were from. Ontario, we said. Ah, the man replied, he'd lived in Toronto for forty years, but was awful glad to eventually move back out here in Perth-Andover, because "ain't nobody trying to shoot at me here." I'd say it was the gospel truth.

and then once you leave New Brunswick, you've got Quebec, which actually is the largest Canadian province. miles and miles of farmland and purple loosestrife, seeming to extend way past the horizon. the occasional gigantic church in a tiny town. All these road signs posted in French, a weird French, because we've all learned French in public school, and yet these signs don't make clear sense, because instead of saying something simple like, "Maximum speed limit: 100 km/hr", they say something more complex and poetic like "You should consider how there are limits to your hurry; The roads are not a race track. 100 km/hr." Or instead of saying "Right turns on right lights are now permitted", they say "I think about pedestrians" with a picture of a red light. Oh well, it's all part of the adventures of French Canada.

today we took the rest of the trek home, and have finally arrived safely back in Ottawa. i'm a little sad about my road trip ending...but then again, i leave for Toronto in a few days, so i'll have plenty of chances to get tired of being on the road, if that could ever happen.

good-bye to the East Coast, the land where McDonald's serves McLobster burgers.