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- Feeling wondrously small in Newfoundland and Labrador
Deer Lake to Anse-aux-Meadows, 694km (Tour Total 2,226km) “Welcome to the Big Land” reads the humongous blue highway placard at the summit of a cruelly steep hill climbing north out of Blanc Sablon, Québec. “That’s a very big sign,” noticed Heron. “Are they trying to intimidate us?” wondered Sitka. “On the other side, it says ‘Thanks for visiting’ if you want just take your photo and pretend you’ve been there,” offered the ladies in the minivan. No way. Now we were curious. Plus we had five hours to kill before our ferry, a famous lighthouse to visit 66km out and back, and a craving for a bakery. We were cycling into Labrador, the immense triangular sibling to the island of Newfoundland, nicknamed “the Big Land” (big B, big L) for its dramatic topography and vast untamed space. But the moniker could easily apply to the whole of Canada’s easternmost province: big mountains, big wildlife, big skies and big history. Its coastal cliffs represent the dividing line between geological epochs. Its fjords are lined by towering billion-year-old rock, carved out by glaciers from Ice Ages past. And its grassy knolls reveal historic first contact between human civilisations 100,000 years in the making. Comparatively, we five cyclists - four Yukoners plus Uncle Steve from Ontario, biking the Viking Trail along the rugged coasts of Iceberg Alley and across the scrubby northern barrens to where Norse men first found North America - felt like mere specks in the sands of time and space. Just happy to be there. Grateful to witness our fantastic, fleeting moment in it all. Our ten-day trek began off the big ferry in Port-aux-Basques, where we immediately stumbled upon an open-air amphitheatre with a band of locals playing a live rendition of I’s the By next to a strip of snack shacks serving fish ‘n’ chips. (For Ed, who could now say he’s visited each of Canada’s provinces and territories, this introduction to the last square on his bingo card was playing right to stereotype.) We skipped ahead by bus to Deer Lake to meet Ed’s brother Steve, who had flown in for a week to bravely embark on his first bike ride longer than 10km. For us, it was our first-ever chance to introduce a relative newbie to our love of cycle touring - and we’d chosen a rather rough place for the initiation. Gros Morne translates roughly from French to “Big Mountain with deep, steep sides” - and there are a lot more than just one gros morne in the mammoth National Park with soaring mesa plateaus split by narrow fjords. “Yesterday (back in Corner Brook) I rode up my first hill with panniers on, and I said Uh-oh,” confessed Uncle Steve. “I should’ve trained more than just bumping up the resistance on my bike at the gym.” Uh-oh. Less than a kilometre in, one the panniers on Steve’s rental bike bounced off into the middle of the highway. Soon after, we avoided near-disaster by replacing a missing bolt on his precariously wobbling rack. Then on the second morning, we discovered he’d pedaled all the first day’s crazy climbs on only his rear gears. “I was wondering what the shifter on the left was for,” he laughed. “My old mountain bike still changes speeds by turning the handlebars.” Uncle Steve was rewarded for his mettle, though, with the full glory of Gros Morne. At our very first campsite, on the shoreline of Bonne Bay at Lomond, we spotted a sleek black, 35-foot minke whale frolicking and fishing a few dozen feet away from our tent. Day Two, after several monster hills up and into the hamlet-lined East Arm, we hiked in the Tablelands - a desert of peridotite rock from the upper layer of the Earth’s mantle thrust up into the floor of the ancient Iapetus Ocean a half-billion years ago. Talk about feeling small. We smartly planned a couple days “off” for activities that we and Uncle Steve both adore: first, an epic sea-kayaking tour with our young guide Zack, from Norris Point to the striking 100-foot vertical cliff of Shag Rock, then along the mountainous contour of the ocean fjord to Woody Point, with its vividly painted rainbow of wood-shingled homes and fishing huts. Afterward, we spontaneously ducked into the Memorial University Marine Research Station for an enrapturing tour of the creepy wolf fish, one-in-a-million mottled lobster, mini flounders and prickly sea urchins in their aquarium and touch-tank with Jacob the encyclopedic undergrad. The next day, we trekked eight hours on foot to conquer the 17km loop traversing the summit of iconic Gros Morne Mountain - scrambling up skree to reach the 800-metre-high plateau of barren limestone, crossing over to expansive 360-degree views of the ocean westward, Bonne Bay to the south, and endless highlands stretching into the horizon everywhere else. We lunched on a vast berry-brush blanket overlooking a spectacular inland fjord hundreds of metres below us, with bridal-veil waterfalls misting down verdant cliffs opposite our windblown perch, before descending along the lush gulley back to the base of the skree. “I can’t believe we climbed up that!” enthused Sitka. “My legs can,” quipped Uncle Steve. In actual fact, our new fifth wheel rolled along with admirable resilience as we tackled mountains, headwinds and walls of teeming rain at times through Gros Morne’s captivating landscape. Fitter than most forty-somethings, Steve still had aches and fatigue in muscles he never knew he had - and he couldn’t sit down for meals for the first few days - but he kept pace with our speed, kept us laughing with his wry humour and bottomless pockets of snacks, kept us informed with his compendious knowledge of plants and bird species, and kept us well fed with a series of seafood stir-fries that spruced up our rotation of camp suppers. By the end, Steve had set a new daily pedal record of 105km, tallied over 400km over his brief week on team, and made memories with his nephews to last a big long time. Riding north on Newfoundland’s west coast, we were elated to be on bikes, as every 20-30km pit stop offered a new highlight. At Lobster Cove, we imagined life as an early 20th-century lighthouse operator family like the Youngs, who kept the kerosene lamp lit 24/7 for four decades. Stuck at home by their duty, they would welcome neighbours from near and far, only knowing their visitors were coming by the oil lanterns bouncing ever more closely in the distance. At Green Point, we were flummoxed by the geology of the layered cliffs, to where scientists from around the world come to examine rare fossils with insights into the planet’s ever-changing surface. At Arches Provincial Park, we watched the tide crash through tunnels bored over centuries in the grass-topped boulders that glaciers discarded in their retreat. And any time, we could pull over at the seaside for a picnic on a rugged slab-stone beach to watch the whitecaps for whales. Even our planned highlight stop offered a stroke of good fortune, as a thick fog lifted just as we arrived at the dock for a boat tour of Western Brook Pond. (Everything about Newfoundland is so big that even the largest of lakes are referred to as “ponds”.) The soaring, jagged cliffs of billion-year-old granitic gneiss are taller than the CN Tower and used to be double their height during previous ice ages, then became an ocean inlet before falling sea levels cut off the fjord from the sea and left a freshwater wonder with half-mile-high waterfalls misting down from the alpine “ponds” on the plateaus above - themselves once part of the ocean floor. Our necks were sore from two hours craning up at the spectacular scenery in all directions, and our minds were sore from contemplating the magnitude of all the time and transformation these rocks had seen - and how relatively tiny our lives (and indeed all human existence) played in the much bigger picture. Much as we’d heard, in Newfoundland and Labrador the weather is big, too. On our day trip to the Big Land (by ferry from St. Barbe), we cycled headfirst into a constant northerly gale, deep down into cozy cove communities and steeply winding back up to the gusty plateaus - all the way to Anse d’Amour and its 100-foot, 138-step lighthouse (the biggest in eastern Canada, of course). Then the clouds blew in heavier and rained their fury on us, chilled to the bone by what was now a mighty tailwind through the mammoth rollercoaster in reverse back to the ferry terminal. Neither word nor camera can capture the feeling of beholding all that space - empty of human presence but teeming with life and colour - in gigantic Labrador that afternoon, and the next day across the forested north peninsula of Newfoundland, onward to St. Anthony. For hours on end, we pedaled with a generous southwesterly at our backs, in ramrod straight lines with broad ponds and stunted scrub on either side, as far as the plains would let us see. We hiked out to the cliffs of Cape Onion to watch a half-dozen magnificent icebergs float by, and spied a dozen humpbacks gracefully breech and fluke in the strait far below. The world of crowded cities with smoky skies seemed a planet away as we got lost in the bigness of pure wild. The rugged remoteness fosters a culture apart, as well. Those resilient souls who have stayed in the Coves - as nearly every seaside fishing hamlet is named - are as relaxed and graciously welcoming as they are hard to understand under the thick, h-amicable h-accent. The men all call Heron and Sitka “son”, and even the young women call Joce “ma darlin’”. When Ed realized his error in assuming the St. Anthony Airport (from where we were scheduled to fly out in two days) was actually in the town of St. Anthony - it’s actually 70km back west - the owner of the cabin we were staying in (born and raised a few doors down, next to the local pub he also owns) said, “I knows a guy with a truck.” Problem solved. And then there’s Clayton Colbourne, our tour guide at Anse-aux-Meadows, and a national treasure himself. Like a Newfie Robin Williams in a Parks Canada golf shirt, he regaled a group of 50 with his vivid stories and intricate detail from when he, as a young boy living in the little house on the point in 1961, watched Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad unearth evidence of Vikings in North America beneath the grassy mounds he played on. As a teen, Clayton helped excavate the historic landmark, and for his adult life (when not out fishing, as is his preference), he’s compiled and humbly, hilariously shared the story of his backyard with the world - the place where human migration reconnected after 100,000 years apart. And all the while reminding us at every step that “Remember, though, folks, I’s no hexpert or hanything.” As though our minds weren’t already in awe-struck overload, we wrapped our trip in St. John’s, with its imposing Narrows, vibrantly painted rowhouses, bustling pub strip, and Signal Hill - a uniquely splendid urban hike along rocky oceanside cliffs, site of the final battle between English and French for Canada’s linguistic destiny, base of Merchant Marine suppliers facing Nazi U-boats in World War, and home to Memorial University’s Geo Centre highlighting more billion-year-old rock carved by glaciers. What a way to end our 2,226km summer bike ride, which we thought was a pretty big deal. And, we guess, it was. We explored some of the most challenging terrain and remarkable places in the east of our beautiful country. We got Uncle Steve to beat his bike-day record by a factor of ten. We visited sites of transformative importance in our planet’s history. But in The Big Land - this province so immense in space and time and character - we learned that our place in the big scheme of things is infinitesimally small. Best to follow our curiosity and enjoy every minute of our relatively brief visit.
- Surpassed by our sons on spectacular Cape Breton
Pictou to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, 556km (Tour total 1,532km) “I’m finished. I don’t think I can make it!” “Just one more kilometre to go.” “But it’s another uphill!” “We’ve already biked 84 kilometres today. Just one last push.” “Aaaagggghhhh!” “C’mon, Dad, you got this!” “Ugh, okay.” There may have been more whining in Ed’s head than just this, but the last-ditch encouragement from his sons certainly helped him cross the finish line after an excruciating day crossing over the magnificent, mountainous spine of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands. We’ve mentioned before that bike touring is a superb way to foster resilience in our kids. Since they were old enough to wear a helmet, we’ve met all kinds of challenges while cycling every summer. We’ve scaled the Alps in Austria, the Southern Alps in New Zealand, the Rockies in Alberta and the Cascades in Washington. We’ve faced ferocious headwinds for hours on end in Portugal and Germany and British Columbia, and pummeling rain in Australia, Denmark and the Olympic Peninsula. When you’ve surmounted obstacles like these, we hope, everyday hurdles back home like ski races, math tests and emptying the dishwasher will feel a little easier. But it doesn’t mean we always model that resilience ourselves. As our teens grow on their saddles, physically and mentally, they’re gaining strength, experience and perseverance. As we parents get a year older with each annual trip, it seems we… just get older. Earlier that day, we were riding up the 12% grade of North Mountain in the midday heat. Ever since they were mini-cyclists, we’ve developed the habit of sandwiching the boys between us, but when Dad the leader needed to pull over to stretch his back, he said offhandedly, “You guys go ahead if you want.” Zoom. They’d been waiting for that invitation, apparently. Off they went, gliding smoothly up, up and away around the steep switchbacks. Sitka even pedalled standing up for most of it. When we eventually caught up at the 1500-foot summit (even Ed’s eyebrows appear to be thinning, as he had to stop three times to wipe the stinging sweat out of his eyes), Heron and Sitka were calmly sipping from their water bottles. “We saw a moose, right here!” enthused Sitka, pointing to his tires. “It’s still in the bush, there, if you can spot it.” Joce - calm and steady, the true model of resilience on our family (her eyebrows evidently still work) - didn’t end up seeing the moose. She was just glad to be at the top. And that the boys don’t mind waiting for us. Of course, the boys are still working on their resilience, too - if they can’t find their e-book reader or have to wake up early for a ferry - but the bigger problems and disappointments don’t really faze them any more: Getting drenched and pelted by hail-hard rain at 35 knots on a whale-sighting boat with no whales in sight? “We got some serious air on those swells!” Have to bike an 11% grade for 90 minutes up to French Mountain’s 500-metre summit in a drizzly fog? “That didn’t take as long as I thought.” Flying down Mackenzie Mountain’s 13% hairpin downhill in a thick, soppy cloud where you could barely see the outline of the rider in front of you, let alone the reputedly stunning coastal views? “That was awesome, especially when the road lines suddenly turned right in front of my wheel!” Only way to cross the Great Bras d’Or Strait between Englishtown and Boularderie Island is the two-lane, shoulderless climb up to the 100-foot-high Seal Island Bridge? “It wasn't fun, but it was bike-able.” We’ve left behind our reserve battery pack, had our tent fly ripped to shreds, and Heron even broke a spoke this week on his rear wheel - on the dreaded cassette side - in the middle of nowhere. “Hey Dad, how ‘bout I fix it myself?” “I think I see a cafe ahead,” observes Sitka. “Hey Mom, let’s go get a snack!” “I tell them that there’s no problems, only solutions,” Ed has quoted Lennon to the boys since forever. Apparently it’s beginning to stick. It didn’t hurt that we spent the past ten days in one of Canada’s most extraordinary natural playgrounds - along the beach-laden north coast of Nova Scotia and onto Cape Breton Island with its two striking coasts, spectacular national park and reinvigorating Gaelic and Acadian culture. It’s also a province ravaged by unprecedented wildfires earlier this summer, and by abnormal flooding during the week we were riding through - a sobering reminder that rising climate-change-related events are making nature adventuring more challenging, and resilience ever more important. Indeed, for the first time in memory, we were forced indoors by the torrential 36-hour downpour that took the whole province by storm (by pure serendipity, we had planned an off-bikes day in a cabin in Ingonish Beach). We overcame the disappointment at missing our scheduled hike on the forested peninisula with board games and movies - an unprecedented no-movement day that left us all with an unfamiliar stir-crazy feeling (except for Ed, who volunteered to get groceries 8k away, so donned his bathing suit and blared his underappreciated Spotify playlist under the heavy rain splotches and through the deep roadside puddles). We arrived in Nova Scotia from PEI on the ferry in Caribou, riding south over the Pictou Causeway to New Glasgow for a glimpse of African-Canadian history (in addition to being a hub for Black Loyalists and freed slaves, it’s where trailblazer Viola Desmond civilly disobeyed segregation laws in the local theatre almost a decade before Rosa Parks boarded that Alabama bus) and another cousin visit with Ashley and adorable family, then along the Sunrise Trail scenic route toward Cape George Point, fossil seeking at Arisaig Beach, down to Antigonish for a brief campus tour of St. Francis Xavier University (parents more impressed than teens) and eastward on quiet farm roads and through Mik’maw communities to Cape Breton. We crossed the shoulderless Canso Causeway with little trouble thanks to patient drivers giving us oodles of space, and thankfully met a couple who told us the first few kilometres of the Celtic Rail Trail are currently washed out until the town of Troy. There, we merged onto this glorious groomed path for 80 kilometres over a couple days of shallow sandy beaches, steep and stellar coast views, and of course lots of live music. We lunched in Judique at the Celtic Interpretive Centre, taking in the local custom of fish and chips with a healthy side of brilliant fiddle, guitar and piano by a band of locals. Ed was in his happy place, playing Ashley MacIsaac’s Sleepy Maggie on repeat on his head all the way to Mabou, where we cleaned up and dined at the famed Red Shoe Pub on more haddock and fries (homemade bean burgers for the boys) with more live Celtic music. For 48 hours, the Spotify hip-hop shifted to upbeat Celtic classics - yes, including the Rankin Family, part-owners of the Red Shoe - with the boys bopping merrily alongside Mom and Dad. After a refreshing ocean dip at Margaree Harbour, we rode shoulderless road up the Acadian coast, as the bluffs in our foreground grew gradually larger and more imposing until Chéticamp, southwest corner of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. “It’s important to keep a bear-safe campsite, folks,” recited the recent high-school grad at the entry booth to the beautiful campground on fast-flowing Chéticamp River. “We’re from the Yukon,” we explained why we didn’t need the pamphlet for the nth time. “Where are your bear bins?” “Oh, I don’t think we have any. Linda, do we have bear bins? No, we don’t have bear bins. “I guess you can just put your food in whatever you usually put it in. We don’t really get bears.” “I’ll find the garbage bins so we can put our food bags in the back part with the bear-proof handle,” offers Heron, nonplussed. Another solution our family had concocted over the years on two wheels. Our day off at Chéticamp featured the splendid three-hour Acadien trail hike from maple-and-fern rainforest to the stunted spruce and berry bushes atop the highlands, then a ride into town to the funky Freya and Thor cafe, and finally that ill-fated whale tour (“guaranteed” so we were offered our money back, but we took the half-back option since we caught all that air, and also were jazzed by the close-up looks at the soaring, 500-million-year-old pink granite cliffs and an adorable colony of dozens of huge harbour seals). We’d rinsed our bike clothes in the rushing brook next to our campsite just before the rain set in, so Sitka Google-mapped a local laundromat to dry them in. No sweat - figuratively and literally. We hiked the popular Skyline Trail through moose habitat to the fabulous boardwalk at the edge of those beautiful bluffs, just after that foggy climb up French Mountain. When the cloud parted momentarily, we could stare down at the windy, sketchy highway we’d just conquered. “Wow, I’m glad I couldn’t see that road while we biking it,” mused Sitka. After the cloudy blind descent down Mackenzie, we emerged in Pleasant Bay, where the super-friendly local host at the impressive Whale Interpretive Centre suggested a second shot at whale-boating. “Sorry, it’s too foggy out for the rest of the day.” “I really wanted to see whales,” bummed Sitka, who had been deeply affected by the displays showing the evolution of human appreciation of cetaceans, from blubbery commodity to revered fellow mammal. Then a glint in his eye. “How about tomorrow morning?” And so it was that we met a small pod of elusive minke whales - 35-foot wonders surfacing a few times before arching their graceful, angular dorsal fins and diving a few hundred feet for food. And so it was, too, that Ed was so exhausted after a late start to that day up North Mountain and along the Aspy Fault, then up another steep climb over to the east coast of the Highlands - even after a stop at Neils Harbour’s lighthouse ice cream parlour (cash only, so Dad darted into town, found someone to fix the local ATM, and returned a hero with two twenties) - before the final kilometre in Ingonish Beach threw up one last uphill he couldn’t handle. Until his physically and mentally stronger-than-ever teenagers showed him otherwise.
- “Au gré du vent” on les Îles de la Madeleine
Three island loop rides, 130km (Tour total 976km) There’s a certain feeling that comes with being wrapped cozily in your sleeping bag, opening your eyes after a deep sleep, and seeing a slice of blue sky directly overhead. After a few seconds of pure camping bliss, you realize that your tent fly is missing. Or, on this blustery morning on the ocean-cliff edge of Gros Cap, that the fairly essential layer between your tent mesh and the elements is shredded straight through. It had been a near-sleepless night hoping our nylon homes would survive the gale-force storm thrashing them nearly flat. Successive gusts pummeled the resilient but now so seemingly fragile structure, keeping us wide-eyed for hours. The tent in the site next to us had been leaning so far over that we could see the outline of their cooler inside. Just as we finally drifted off, it felt, Heron awoke to the tragic scene above him. “Mom, the fly is ripped.” “I just woke up.” “It looks pretty bad.” “Should I take it off?” Of course, our teenager sent four calm texts to the tent next door before remembering Mom puts her phone on silent at night, and wears custom-fit ear plugs in any event. Emergencies are Dad’s job. “Guys, the fly is destroyed! I need help!” came the whispered shout from our oldest son forced out into the gale in his shorts. Now that’s a better way to get one’s parents to leap into action. With the speed and precision of the US Marine Corps, our camp-happy foursome of Yukoners dismantled the ill-advised set-up we’d concocted in late dusk the previous evening, and sought shelter on the smarter, lee side of the spruce thicket to assess the damage. “Yep, that’s a long rip,” reported Sitka. All the way down, parallel to the zipper seam. Six years of Yukon wilderness and six months across Europe made us feel invincible in our trusty MSR Papa Hubba. But even this awesomest of tents couldn’t hold against the ferocious gales of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on a gorgeous 100km-long archipelago with 12,000 seafaring Québécois a hundred miles off the mainland. Les Îles de la Madeleine represented the third province in our Atlantic Canada summer bike tour, after much calmer rides along the Northumberland Strait straddling northern New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Les Îles were first settled by a few dozen expulsed Acadiens in the mid-18th century, allocated to Québec in 1774, then populated largely by survivors of shipwrecks along its beautifully treacherous coastline. They’re a weather-hardened, deeply kind people accustomed to taking tragedy in stride. And so it should’ve been no surprise that Sylvie, the cheery host at the Parc du Gros Cap’s cuddly little auberge next to the windswept campground, took us in, booked us into the last available room for the night, made Joce coffee and started calling all her friends for a solution to our tentlessness. One possibly had a long glue-able patch to keep our “double toit” going long-term. Another surely had a three-person tent to lend for our last three nights on the islands. Others had spare rooms or knew of shops nearby to buy new camp gear. Once it was concluded that the damage was irreparable, our accumulated experience in mid-trip problem-solving came through. Ed made a series of phone inquiries that led nowhere except unravelling his diligently planned outdoor camping week, while Joce finagled the last available cozy seaside cabin on the neighbouring Île du Havre-aux-maisons, tracked down a new three-person Hubba from an outdoor store in Nova Scotia, and coordinated its timely delivery to a Canada Post office along our route three days hence. Parental teamwork at its finest. Meanwhile, Heron and Sitka set about researching alternative itineraries for our first day on les Îles, given that the wind had also cancelled our long-reserved kayak tour around the iconic cave-laden coastal cliffs. Now expert day-planners after six months plotting out fun-stuffed routes in Europe, they guided us on a pro-level 35km loop tour around l’Ile du Cap-aux-meules: to the Phare du cap lighthouse, perched perfectly for views of the quirkily sculpted, deep-red sandstone west coast all the way up to Belle-Anse; then along a surprise encounter with one of Québec’s famous Route verte cycling tours with the sea to our left all the way up to Plage du nord for crème glacée and a boulder-jumping, rock-skipping session; then back into town for gluten-free macarons. gluten-filled fresh apple pie and homemade Greek salad at la Boulangerie Madelon. It wasn’t what we’d planned, but it was a perfect bike day together. Midday we had stumbled upon a surf shop on a random country road, so we stopped in to see if there were any non-kayak adventures on offer. “Ce fou de vent serait l’idéal pour du kitesurfing,” enthused the bronzed dude behind the counter. Heron’s eyes exploded - we’d tried seeking lessons all over Europe last year but never caught the right conditions at the right place on the right date we were passing through. “What about the little guy?” we ventured. “Is he heavy enough to try?” Sitka was told often in Europe that he’d likely just fly away with the kite. “Bien sûr!” They’d find him a smaller kite, is all. Sitka practically ripped Ed’s arm off with excitement. “In the three-hour class, would they make onto the water?” In Europe they’d required more than one lesson to get past the theory and the beach. “Absolument.” This guy was winning points left and right. And so we booked kitesurfing for two (as you may know, Ed can break a toe just looking at a surfboard, which is a convenient way for him to avoid displaying his profound ineptitude at balance-on-water sports) for the next day at 11:30am. If the wind was going to tear our summer home apart, it might as well gift the boys a more exciting extreme experience. The French phrase “au gré du vent” means “by the will of the wind.” It’s used literally for things getting blown about in the breeze, and also for people getting blown around by life. In our case, it was both, as we pedaled headfirst into a brisk gale down to the long sandspit to the shores of l’Étang de la Martinique for the boys’ dream kitesurf day, only to have the wind suddenly slow to a near-still whisp when we arrived. “We can do the first part of the lesson learning about the equipment and how to hold the kite,” cautioned Yuri, our eager young teacher. “But I’m not sure it’s strong enough to keep us afloat.” A half-hour later, the gales that shredded our tent fly had fallen fully asleep. No matter how hard Yuri tugged and turned and ran back and forth in the shallow waters, the giant inflated kite refused to stay airborne. Le vent des Îles was messing with us again. We would salvage that day, too, with a tour of the southern-most Île du Havre-Aubert, dining in historic La Grave on gourmet fish tacos and pizza with fresh Tomme des Demoiselles cheese made only on these islands, then discovering a remote sandy beach stretching for miles to wander with waves lapping our feet and chat about our fall family plans back home. Of course now that the wind has calmed, all the replacement kayak tour slots were full, so we packed our final day on l’Ile du Havre-aux-maisons with a fromagerie stop to meet that troop of cows responsible for specialized Madelinot cheeses, a short hike to the colony of double-crested cormorants at the lighthouse at La Cap Alright, a wave-frolicking session at la Plage du Dune-du-Sud, and a spontaneous drop-in at la Méduse glass shop, where a local artist couple create marvellous trademark pieces with colourful sculpted jellyfish inside - making for stunning effects when lit from below with a disc lamp. The money we’d saved on cancelled kitesurfing and kayaking will thus serve to illuminate our living room in perpetuity. As we pedaled home to our cozy cabin on the lagoon between Cap-aux-Meules and Havre-des-maisons, the cloud and fog that had enveloped our whole visit so far suddenly lifted, revealing a quite picturesque set of islands we hadn’t truly seen yet, dotted almost cliche-like with lively-coloured country houses. We wanted even more to stay another week - maybe then the wind would cooperate. In the end, our resilience was rewarded with a sweet sunset over the lagoon, and we remembered that for all our careful scheming, on a bike tour, we are always “au gré du vent.”