It's December 22nd, 2013, and we're on our way back from Montreal. The weather outside is indeed, quite frightful!
We're caught in the midst of a wicked snowstorm and we're only beginning our journey home. The wind is rocking and swaying the car back and forth. The snow flurries are impeding visibility. And on top of it, every once in a while Mother Nature treats us to some wonderful intermittent ice rain. But let's be clear here... not just the kind that rolls off your windshield...but the other kind. The type that sticks to windshield. The kind that, when the wipers go on, spreads a thin layer of frozen ice all over your windshield so that you can't see a single thing.
-Oh, the joys of Quebec's winter driving season!
The road conditions on the highway were bad. (Hypothetically) For an airplane pilot, the number of cars piled into the ditch along the road, could have easily been mistaken for a landing strip. So, after seeing all of these cars stuck in snowbanks along Highway 20 or completely off the road, we decided to analyze our options:
a) We can continue on Highway 20 and drive at an incredibly slow pace (Fingers crossed the whole time so that we won't end up in the ditch like the others)
b) We can attempt to take side roads at a possibly better pace (Fingers crossed again so that we don't end up in a ditch either)
Given the deplorable state of the roads, we went with our second option. We headed off Highway 20 and towards Route des Navigateurs. We figured driving in this direction would also give us the possibility of taking Highway 40 if the conditions were too bad.
So away we went. Exit: Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover. We drove down a 31 km stretch of farmland. (You know, like those farms you see on your way down the 20.) So far, the conditions weren't all that great. The wind kept blowing snow from the snowbanks onto the road. We couldn't really tell where the road was, but since we were alone, we kept in the middle for safety's sake. Only ten minutes in and we were beginning to regret our decision. But we figured that at least here there weren't as many cars on the road and we were actually driving at a faster pace. So, old barn after old barn we finally made it past the stretch and into Saint-Zéphrin-de-Courval.
Yess!!! Finally... TREES! Birch and Pine trees galore! Thank God! This meant that the wind wouldn't be as bad! We finally had a break from the bushels of snow flying onto the car. We were on Rang St-Pierre, the village's main street. It was scattered with old, run-down, crooked houses. The one thing that stood out though, was that they had all decorated their front porches by wrapping the banisters with red ribbon and bows. Almost every single house was like this. The Christmas spirit was definitely present. Most of the houses also had huge, old wooden barns that looked like they were falling apart. The houses reminded me of the old farm houses that are located near the Quebec - USA border, with the big antenna's on the roof and paint chipping off the wood. I swear, it was very similar.
As we're driving along, out of nowhere, we spot this huge castle-looking house located on a farm. It appeared to be an old, European-style, stone manor. It really looked ''castlesque.'' It had the stone towers, the red tin roofs, the big wooden doors... It was beautiful. But for some reason it didn't fit with the backdrop. Here I was, looking at a castle on a a big pig farm...weird!
So on we went. More old farm houses. More snowy fields that made me wish I had my ski-doo. (If only we had been on ski-doo...we wouldn't have to worry about any of this weather b.s!) Until we reached Baie du Febvre, previously known as Baieville. Here, we came across a small downtown area. There were more houses, churches, and less farms. We were right in the city center. It wasn't very long until we had to take a right turn towards Nicolet in order to continue on. Back to snow covered wheat and corn fields. More, old wooden barns that looked like they might just blow away in the storm like Dorothy's house in The Wizard of Oz. The weather was beginning to worsen. We could barely see the front end of the car. Perhaps it was exactly the best day to be out and about exploring. But, -hey...Too late now...We must go on!
By the time we made it to Nicolet we were relieved. We took a shaky bridge to cross the Nicolet River. Now, we were following a plough. Normally I'd be annoyed, but given the conditions it wasn't such a bad thing. At least this way we could follow its tracks to get a better idea of where the road actually was. It was incredibly slow, but at least I had time to look around and take in what I could see of the scenery. We drove past a military munition base, then by the Collège Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, a church, a religious museum... We were slowly driving along the river. I tried to take a few snapshots, but in all honesty, they're nothing spectacular. We finally reached a residential area. Visibility was much better thanks to the trees and houses. The streets were more narrow, so the plough was literally destroying all of the mailboxes in its way. The drive suddenly got a bit more entertaining. Here we were betting on what mailboxes could endure the plough's weight. Unfortunately, not very many of them survived. Poor innocent mailboxes.
We finally managed to escape the snow plough's path by taking a right turn into a small wooded area. It was a little residential street crammed with mobile homes and an odd-looking church. The church's side panels were painted pastel pink and it was constructed in an 'L' shape. Now that was different. Definitely a first for me! -But then it all made sense... We drove past the local Nautical Club and through Parc Anse du Port. That's when I realized we were in a little nautical community. I got it now. It changed the entire town's vibe for me. It made a lot more sense.
After braving through Parc Anse du Port, we were in Bécancour. Yet, another small town. What I liked about the place was that each and every little hidden drive was named after the family that lived on the end of it. For example: Chemin RImbeault, Chemin Savoie, Chemin Lemire... You get the picture. It made the place feel quaint and homey. As their municipal motto states: La nature au repos!
Everything was going quite well until a huge gush of wind brushed snow up into the air completely obstructing our vision. We literally had to stop the car because we were in a complete white out. A whirl wind of snow and hail. Then, out of nowhere we hear a loud THUMP! ''Ahh no!'' we thought, ''We just got ran into.'' We sat in the car and waited for the snow flurries to stop so that we could see what had happened. We were prepared for the worse case scenario. I had my CAA card on hand and I was ready to call. We were certain that somebody coming in the opposite direction had driven right into us. We sat there and anxiously waited for a good 2-3 minutes before we could actually see anything. When the wind finally settled, we realized that there was absolutely nothing there. The big thump we heard was actually a snow pile that had been violently blown onto the hood of the car. THANK GOD! We were so relieved! Crisis averted! Now let's get moving before the wind starts up again!
FINALLY... Trois-Rivières! We made it. We could now switch on over to Highway 40, because taking these small roads was nice and all, but it just wasn't going to cut it! It was going to take way too long. So away we went with the wind roaring and chasing us all the way up to Quebec.
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