The road from the ancient ghost city of Ganon to Quebec is long. The Route 389 continues from Ganon paved and just when you think the road had been paved, modernized, or otherwise improved, long stretches of gravel appear and jounce the car and trounce every strut, shock, and pin ever made.
Let me wax poetic for a moment for the Dodge 600 Convertable. If there is an epic poem in here somewhere, if there is some song the bards sing, it will be about the car, not our trip. This car was built in 1984. That means that the youngest members of the team are ready for retirement. That means that the factories that contributed to this machine lay in ruin. Whatever robot arm did a few welds is scrap. Whatever IBM computer helped design the specs is on the dangerious toxic dustbin of history (more than likely in Africa where children smashed it appart for silicates). And still, this Hooptie still trucks on down the road. The trip in total for this car is 4025 miles. This is in 10 days. The last time it went to Canada it was about the same, some 4000 miles. Years ago, when I was moving back upstate it took a tour of Canada from Montreal to Nova Scotia and then down to Boston and then upstate another 3500 miles or so. By Bai Comeau, the car had lost functionality of its headlamps, the passenger side wiper had fallen off, the passenger side window now no longer worked, the car made funny sounds, but she continued unfailing. Relentless. Dodge tough from an age people decry as the low point in automotive innovation. I did not pass any Mersadies Benz, Toyota, Datson, or whatever the competitor was of the age. The Hooptie passed eighteen wheeled trucks, pickups with monster suspension and all manner of construction trucks that towered about the size of a small home. If that home were on wheels and hauled half a hill of dirt at one load. And here she was, going mile after mile in the road that eats cars and spits out the tyres along the way. What a tribute to the American machine of a certain age, even if we were lost then and have forgotten even more since.
The road itself is more uneventful than I remembered. It is the third time I have seen this trail. The forests that were burned are now returning as small brush and weeds, the forest that stood has since burned to blackened stumps or been eroded with clear cutting. The large electrical lines still hum and snap as cities far and distant sip and sup through long straws at the power of falling waters. The paved road breaks into gravel, the road opens up to a vista of a lake, formed by a chunk of space hitting some 400 millions years a go, give or take a few hundred millions.
The single gas station between Fermont and Manic 5, the largest of the dams blocking the river, is still the same as when my team and I had seen it in 2005. A space of utility and quaint but hearty food. We gassed up, just in case. There was kilometers to go before the next station. There are or seem to be more driveways pushed into the bush by campers, hunters, or gas and shale survey teams. When compared with the wilds of the road to James Bay, this seems a built up suburb. Whereas we would see perhaps 5-6 other travelers in an entire day of driving, on the 389 as the Trans Labrador, we would see 1-2 travelers per hour if not more.
From the lake we refer to as “Crater Lake” we drove hard to Quebec City. Through pounding rains and darkness to which our new condition of no headlamps was of some concern. Eventually, we landed in the city and after some more confused moments, we found our housing, the flat of a young lawyer who was stranded at the time in Montreal, so his mother was there to greet us and prepare the space.
She was an older but gracious lady. She was accommodating and spoke in English although my traveling companion speaks French and offered us wine and beer, which after so many days of driving was a welcome offer gladly taken. We sipped our wine on the terrace overlooking the next few blocks of Central City, not a grand space but civilized and historic and a change from the interior wilderness and those dwellings and squats the bushpeople huddle in surrounded by Skidoos and broken environments. The Northern lands no less strange than anything Lovecraft would have considered no less perverted in normalcy than any story told by William Boroughs. We related our tale to Babbitt and she was enthralled. She offered us her own story, that of her and her son’s life and we felt that in this short time we had met our host, not now, but at 12, as a young child camping, and as a teenager who was getting in to sailing. We were exhausted but the conversation revived us and we continued long in to the night, long after the lamps had come on, the shops, even the liquor store, closed, and all of the city became quiet. Babbitt tended to our needs and in a way, for a time, we had a French mom, more than we expected. It was good to have a mom, especially a French one, they have the most charming accents. She had spoiled her sons quite, and especially our lawyer supposed host. We joked that on our trip review, we’d retell a story from his childhood, but perhaps even in this day and age, this is out of bounds.
It is to an end that our journey has come. Another vacation over? A journey into the wilds in a machine of questionable utility to face each day the potential that we would be stranded for days, disrupt our lives and unmake the veil of adulthood and bourgeois existence that hid two adventurers? A distraction for an aging hipster? Material for a blogger to attempt to stand out, to somehow find that journey that would set this publication apart from the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000.0001 other blogs and online travel rants? Sipping wine, I stared into the inky streetscape of Central City Quebec City, a collection of polite edifices and structures from the previous to the last century or whenever 1898 was. Our host’s mom was enthralled. Overjoyed. She did not know what to say but she exclaimed that it was as if we were from outer space. She was a life long Quebec Canadian and still our path led to those places polite people never consider…. It made us feel for a moment like explorers. However, all we did was press down on the gas and avoid rocks and sand for our little craft did all the work – cracked windscreen and all.
Our journey ended on that balcony in Central City Quebec City. True, there were miles to go to home, but here, in the city, the Center of the new city next to the ancient Ville De Quebec we again rested, sipped quality coffee, ate confections, and started reconnected to those devices that so control our lives. We posted to the Book of Face. This writer resumed posting to this publication. Emails, voicemails, work emails, work voicemails started flooding in from the digital channels and we connected to the grid of the web, of the Intertubes, to that long, long straw that sips on thousands and thousands of square miles of wilderness now submerged in methyl-mercurial waters and lost hunting grounds and the now drowned ghosts of a thousand generations.
There was some new story from a friend shared on the Internets.
I clicked a button and liked it.
We were no longer in nature.